By Jason Barrett
I’ve lived in Florida my entire life. I’m 36 years old. I was a senior at Apopka High School in Apopka, FL when the mass shooting at Columbine happened. Since then our country has seen more than its share of mass shootings at schools. I’m tired of it, and I hope you are, too. I think it’s time we wake up as a society and come to grips with the problem and fix it before more kids die. It’s true there are other factors in play here, such as the mental health of the person and their accessibility to guns. We must make societal changes to see that people with mental problems are identified earlier and that they do not have the ability to carry out acts of violence. However, such changes may take years to happen in this political climate. We can’t wait years; we need change now! Here are six things we need to do to improve school safety:
First, Realize there is a problem. You can’t solve a problem unless the problem is identified first. For years we, as citizens, have sat back in our naivety and thought to ourselves “that will never happen to us.” That is wrong. If we aren’t proactive right now, reality is going to slap us all in the face. The next dead child could be yours or a loved one’s. We accept the fact this is a new reality. We can no longer afford to think “this will not happen to our kids”. When lives are at stake, doing nothing is NOT an option.
Second, the problem isn’t with, Obama, Trump, the NRA, Republicans, Democrats, etc. so stop blaming them. Blame the people who are really responsible: Us. The citizens. From whom all political power flows. Ultimately, we are the keepers of the house, and we must take ownership of the pathetic state of school safety and make it our mission to fix it.
Third, how do we make the schools safer? The answer is simple: We have to stop bad guys from carrying guns (and any other weapon) from entering school grounds. That means we need to prevent anyone from walking on school property without being checked. One or two armed guards isn’t enough. Armed teachers isn’t enough. You can have all the armed guards and teachers you want, that isn’t going to stop someone from walking on campus with a concealed weapon. Which means no one should be able to walk in to any school building or attend a school event without walking through a metal detector manned by an armed police officer. Outside the school buildings, we need a wall or fence around the property and entrances guarded by an armed police officer and regular surveillance, which can detect a breach and lock the school down if necessary. No one should be able to walk on to school property, or in a school building, with a gun unless they are a police officer or are another authorized person in the performance of their duty. This should at least be the minimum standards for school security. Anything less is unacceptable!
Fourth, let’s stop making excuses. I’ve heard excuses all over the place anytime I bring this up. The most common of them is “we shouldn’t turn our schools into prisons”. If you perceive this to be a prison, then I think I’d rather have that then see any of our kids be at risk. I don’t know any “prisons” which allow the “prisoners” to go home at the end of the day… Would you rather go home alive or allow someone with a concealed weapon to walk on campus? We can no longer have it both ways. The second, most common excuse is “we don’t have the money”. That’s plain old BS. We can get the money. Money isn’t the problem. We can find the money. Give corporations $700 billion when they tank the economy but when our kids are being shot at, we can’t find the money? Folks, money isn’t the problem. It’s the lack of will power. We lack the will to do what’s necessary to protect our kids. If we had protected our kids, who’s to say the 27+ kids we’ve lost this year wouldn’t still be alive? How valuable are your kid’s lives to you? When we get our priorities straight, we’ll find the money to achieve those priorities.
Fifth, contact our elected officials regularly until they make these changes. That means getting on the phone, send emails, and have meetings with school board members, local law enforcement, and state representatives until we get the level of security described here. Anything less is unacceptable. Again, how valuable are your kids? Here are the websites you can go to find your elected official in the state legislature and federal government. Do everything within the law to lobby your elected official until they comply with your demands and protect our kids:
*Orange County School board: www.ocps.net, phone: 407-317-3200
*State representatives: www.myfloridahouse.gov, www.flsenate.gov
*Federal representatives: www.house.gov, www.senate.gov
* President of St. Petersburg College, Dr. Tonjua Williams at firstname.lastname@example.org
In summary, we have to accept the fact that is a new reality. Securing our schools is something we can do right now to save lives and prevent further shootings. I urge all of you, my fellow citizens, to do whatever is necessary (within the law) to lobby our leaders (school board, State and Federal representatives) to fix this problem now!
Header photo from east-sideonline.org