There is seemingly no place safer than home, but schools are supposed to be the next best thing. A place to learn about the world, to learn about one another. To grow. To mature. Really, a place to blossom.
Not too long ago, parents sent their children to schools without a second thought — worried only about grades and the occasional bully. Now it’s lockdown drills. Secured classroom doors. Constant vigilance by those who we have otherwise tasked to teach.
And these words won’t make any of that better. Because if there is anything we have learned from Uvalde, from Parkland, from Sandy Hook, it’s that we can never do enough to protect our most precious resource: our children.
But that doesn’t mean we can’t try. And it’s time for a much broader approach — the kind only the Nassau-Suffolk School Boards Association can lead.
It’s so sad that we, as a country, can even say this, but there is a lot of experiential data available on how vulnerable our schools are to those intending to inflict harm. Yet we can’t dwell on why that information exists. We must use it to prevent those tragic stories we read about and watch from elsewhere from ever landing at our front door.
The school boards association doesn’t have the authority to demand, of course. But it can certainly advocate — something it’s been doing since 1959 for more than 100 school districts across Long Island. Sure, most of that has been on the financial end — schools are always starving for money, thus making funding at all government levels a priority. But that doesn’t mean the organization can’t pursue school safety as well.
And it’s not that our local school districts aren’t trying — they are. The knowledge and skills to effectively fortify a school from a shooter are not something that can be piecemealed, however. It requires centralized planning — not as big as New York, but at least as big as Long Island.
The school boards association has the infrastructure to help lead that planning, and even effect real change.
The group can start by pushing for an audit of every single building, every single door, every single window in Long Island schools. How are campuses accessed? How are visitors controlled? How can those campuses keep weapons off their grounds, without making them feel like prisons?
Some ideas that have been promoted elsewhere include video cameras outside every exterior door with direct feeds to a security officer. Classroom door locks that can be activated by a teacher. Even bulletproof glass.
Sure, these measures are designed to prevent the symptoms of this overall issue, not the issue itself. But they are measures that will help keep our children safe today, and buy time for more expansive measures like gun control, assault weapon bans, and addressing the emotional needs of a school — and a community — right down to identifying signs that lead to a potential tragedy, and stopping it before a shooter’s plans are realized.
We can’t just talk and do nothing. We need to take action, and we need to speak with a unified voice. If we don’t, that next tragedy we read about could very well be our own.