Every year I update a series about deterring armed attacks on schools, and failing that, how to minimize, perhaps even prevent, the loss of innocent lives. The most recent iteration is titled School Attacks: Feeling Good Or Saving Lives. The seventh and last article in the series contains links to the entire series. Having served a career as a police officer, and nearing the end of a career as a teacher, perhaps I have insights denied to most, for experience is indeed the best teacher. Among those insights is that educators, perhaps even a majority, will fight tooth and nail to deny America’s children the most effective, indeed, the only effective, means to protect their lives should the worst case scenario come to pass. The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette recently published a glimpse into the primary sides of the debate, the first, but the Post-Gazette’s editorial board:
Police officers employed by the Pittsburgh Public Schools have the same arrest powers and receive the same training as their counterparts in municipal police departments. The big difference is, the school district’s police officers don’t carry guns. It’s time for that to change.
The city schools employ two groups of public-safety professionals — 57 school security aides, who have limited authority, and 23 sworn police officers, including the chief and assistant chief. The aides may be found throughout the district’s 54 schools. At least one police officer is assigned to each of the district’s high schools, and the other officers function as a mobile force, traveling from one location to another as needed. The ranks also include two police dogs.
The police officers are unarmed even though they work in environments where weapons sometimes are found and violence sometimes erupts. There also is the threat of schools being attacked from the outside or of street violence spilling onto school property. Municipal police officers wouldn’t be asked to face on-the-job risks without weapons; school police officers shouldn’t be asked to do so, either. Aaron Vanatta, a Quaker Valley School District police officer and Region 3 director for the National Association of School Resource Officers, put it this way: Police officers without guns are like ‘firefighters without any hoses. What’s the sense?
What’s the sense indeed? This attitude is common, and extraordinarily dangerous:
An abundance of caution apparently has driven the Pittsburgh school district’s prohibition on gun-carrying officers through the years. Linda Lane, who retired as superintendent last year, said she ‘never felt that guns and kids were a good combination, no matter who has the gun.
For such people, progressives all, only feelings truly matter. They create their own reality. Guns are bad, therefore no one-certainly not the police (Progressives don’t trust them)—should have them. Thin metal gun free school zone signs express their good, intellectually and morally superior intentions and beliefs. This makes them feel good and righteous, and because they believe a thing to be true, it must be true. Some educators think even the presence of police officers somehow soils a pristine educational environment. The idea that police officers might carry arms is abhorrent.
The article notes a single, unarmed officer is stationed at the high schools. The rest of a pitifully small force are floaters, traveling between the remaining schools. Elementary schools don’t have even the minimal, unarmed “protection” afforded the high schools. The Editorial Board—consider how unusual it is for a progressive newspaper in the progressive city to support such things—ends thus:
Arming the school police wouldn’t be a rash act putting students, teachers and other employees at risk. With proper oversight, the measure would enhance safety rather than diminish it.
As I’ve pointed out in the past, only allowing willing staff—faculty and others—to carry concealed handguns provides actual deterrence. Only that rational policy can possibly stop attackers in their tracks, send them fleeing, or minimize the death toll when an attack occurs. Anything less is wishful thinking and do-nothing, feel good, anti-liberty ideology, the kind of warped thinking that puts “educational atmosphere” over the lives of children and teachers. One must always have priorities, but putting a nebulous ideal over human life is quite insane.
And speaking of insanity, one can always count on the ACLU when resistance to the fundamental human right affirmed by the Second Amendment is concerned. In response to the editorial comes Harold Jordan, a “senior policy advocate at the American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania.”
There is an emerging national debate about school policing. It is not about whether school police should be armed but about how best to improve school environments and ensure student success while minimizing unnecessary student arrests. Emerging best practices aim to reduce police involvement in routine disciplinary school matters, ensure fairness in disciplinary processes, and increase the ratio of counselors and student support services to cops.
Sadly, while many communities explore how to improve school climates by building trusting relationships between adults and students, Pittsburgh debates the arming of school police.
Jordan refers to one of the most destructive policies of the Obama years, the idea that if minority students, particularly black students, are disciplined or arrested in numbers exceeding their numbers in the school population, that statistical disparity is prima facie evidence of racism. The only cure for such things is to simply stop disciplining and arresting black students. The inevitable result of this insane policy is anarchy and chaos, and the denial of education to kids that actually want to learn in the public schools, as I’ve previously explained. Such policies must, of necessity ignore reality, particularly the reality that black students commit disciplinary infractions and crimes far out of proportion to their numbers in school populations. As usual, it’s about feelings:
The most immediate impact of arming school police would be felt by students, as school-based police spend the bulk of their time interacting with students in non-emergency situations. Having officers patrol the hallways with firearms sends a negative message to students. It makes many students feel that they are being treated like suspects. It can have an intimidating presence and can contribute to negative attitudes about police, in general.
The kinds of kids that might feel intimidated might very well need to feel that way. Such criminals will have negative attitudes about the police, but only because the police tend to arrest them for their crimes. Officers carry firearms because they deal with the worst elements of society—of any age—and because they are charged not only with protecting their own lives, but the lives of the public. To progressives and the ACLU, the willingness of police officers to risk their lives that other might live “sends a negative message.” Such selflessness obviously does not fit neatly into a utopian progressive worldview.
There is no evidence that arming school officers increases overall safety or improves relationships within school communities. Having an armed officer stationed in schools has neither prevented nor stopped ‘active shooter’ incidents. It did not at Columbine High School nor has it elsewhere. Thankfully, these tragic situations are still rare in schools.
Jordan ignores the fact that, with only a very few exceptions, school attacks take place in “gun-free” victim disarmament zones where no police officers, armed or not, are present. There is no doubt–to the rational—unarmed schools serve as invitations to attacks. Improving relationships is a red herring, an attempt to distract from the fact that unarmed schools are helpless schools, inviting targets full of people whose only choices in an armed attack are to run, hide and die, or perhaps to throw canned veggies at an attacker. Perhaps Mr. Jordan would oppose even that? A murderer could get hurt!
Jordan goes on to observe that the very tools police officer carry are controversial and bad, bad, bad. He also notes that other places don’t allow armed police officers in schools, so obviously, Pittsburgh is correct and virtuous.
‘Unarmed school staff does not mean that schools are defenseless in emergency situations. School districts have arrangements, formal or informal, with local law enforcement in which outside assistance is provided when needed in emergencies, such as when there is a bomb threat or serious injury.
Such arrangements in Newtown, CT, at the Sandy Hook Elementary School, meant exactly and precisely that the school was defenseless. It took more than five minutes before school staff were able to notify the police of the attack, and mere seconds less than 15 minutes before police officers were able to enter the school. This is a blisteringly fast police response time, yet the murderer was able to kill as many as he pleased and kill himself within ten minutes. If he chose, he could have continued to kill for an additional five minutes, at least, and could probably have taken a few police officers with him, particularly if they were disarmed. Actually, disarmed officers would inevitably be the first targets in a school attack, as they were in an attack in Red Lake, ND in 2005.
Especially troubling is the editorial’s argument that school police should be armed because police in surrounding communities are.
Places of learning are not security zones or criminal justice institutions, and they should not be staffed that way.
Consider, gentle readers, what Jordan is arguing. Just because the police outside school property are armed doesn’t mean police on school property should be armed. By all means, we must deny children and teachers the same protection afforded them when they are off school property. Going to school, to Jordan’s deranged way of thinking, means surrendering not only one’s right to self-defense, it tears away the doctrine of in loco parentis, in the place of parents. School staff not only have no responsibility to protect students as they would their own children, they have a responsibility to teach them helplessness and weakness.
Schools had damned well better be security zones, places where killers can be certain they will not have an easy time slaughtering innocents to their heart’s content. Gun-free signs serve only to assure killers they’ll be free to kill long before a police response can be organized. Jordan’s reference to “criminal justice institutions” again refers to the progressive article of faith that the most disruptive and criminal students must never be disciplined, instead, there must be an army of counselors to implore them to get in touch with their feelings, instead of the bodies and personal goods of their victims.
The true gun free school zone message is that we are not responsible for our own safety and security; someone else—something else–will somehow protect us. This represents magical thinking: a thing is so because we say it is, because we sincerely wish it to be. Pity poor Virginia Tech Spokesman Larry Hincker, commenting on the defeat in the legislature, only a short time before the attack, of a bill that would have allowed students and faculty to carry firearms on campus. He said:
I’m sure the university community is appreciative of the General Assembly’s actions because this will help parents, students, faculty and visitors feel safe on our campus.
No doubt he and others felt safe for a time, but feelings and reality are often quite different, an irony that one can only hope will haunt him, the Virginia Tech Administration and Faculty, and will certainly haunt the surviving relatives of the victims for the rest of their lives.
We are all, by law and common sense, responsible for our personal security and the security of those we love. Refusing to take affirmative measures to protect our charges and selves is an abrogation of responsibility and teaches weakness, helplessness and eternal, hopeless victimhood. There is no morality, superior or otherwise, in victimhood, particularly if death defines it. We have established gun free school zone policies to lull ourselves into the belief that such places are safe, to “send a message’ about what we believe to be important, to advertise our belief in peace and safety and niceness.’
Fortunately, school attacks remain rare, but there is nothing keeping them from occurring, particularly in schools that are victim disarmament zones. The citizens of Newtown, CT doubtless thought the possibility of an attack on their schools was as likely as being struck by a meteorite. They know better now. Surely there will never be another attack in Newtown? What prevents it, other than the law of averages?
Witless, ill-intentioned idealogues like Jordan must be opposed in the strongest possible ways and terms. Remember: he is not speaking about denying self-protection to teachers. He wants to deny it to the police! What he advocates is nothing less than passively accepting some number of wounded and dead police officers, teachers and children when school attacks occur–and they will. People like him learn nothing from history, and know nothing of human nature. They live in the world they imagine, not the world that surrounds us all.
It’s up to us to teach them, and to force them, where necessary, to accept reality rather than their fantasy worlds.