How to Fix Education

[Opinion] Ending School Terrorism

Guest Writer: Doug Carroll, Ed. D.
In a free society, there is an expectation in the exchange for protection by the government a certain amount of personal liberty will be voluntarily sacrificed. Since the terror attacks on 9/11, U.S. citizens have invested trillions of dollars to protect the homeland from terror attacks diverting scarce financial resources from investments in the social safety net and education. To protect commerce, anyone who travels is subjected to the ritual of security scans, baggage search, and in some instances, having to remove articles of clothing like shoes.
Public facilities such as government offices are manned by armed guards and protected by metal detectors. Some public streets and public spaces have concrete barriers re-routing traffic and pedestrians through checkpoints and further scrutiny from searches. We are routinely surveilled by cameras at intersections, traffic lights, and public spaces. Data is gathered on us virtually every time we swipe a debit card, connect to the internet, fill out a health form, or make a cell phone call. We accept the loss of personal freedom as a part of our routine daily living for the exchange of risk and government protection from terrorists who desire to harm us.
This is not the first time innocent children became victims at the hands of a terrorist and we fear will probably not be the last. Click To Tweet
As the most terrorist attacks last year on the Parkland High School in Broward County Florida graphically demonstrates (Yes, the disenfranchised student is a terrorist.) the institutions in place for protecting children catastrophically failed their responsibilities. We were shortchanged in the bargain; the price paid by the lives of innocent children. This is not the first time innocent children became victims at the hands of a terrorist and we fear will probably not be the last. The failure to protect vulnerable young people leads the public to the question, can we protect our children from domestic terrorism in the school?
More to the point, the government consistently argues we are safer than ever from foreign terrorists wreaking havoc on targets in the United States and successfully executing attacks. Why then is it so difficult to imagine given the same strategies that protect commercial enterprises and government buildings such as courthouses or nationally televised events like parades or sports from foreign terrorists; why is the same standard of measurement not applicable to public schools?
Why are public schools not thought of as potential targets and of national security importance? Click To Tweet
Funding is frequently cited as an obstacle to providing financial support to many educational programs. There is a saying, “budgets drive missions”. According to a recent report by the Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs, Brown University, The Cost of War, The DHS has a number of responsibilities, in conjunction with other agencies, that are directly and indirectly war-related. These missions include preventing and disrupting terrorist attacks, protecting critical infrastructure, and responding and recovering from terrorist incidents. Since 2002, more than $780 billion has been appropriated for these missions.” This does not include the trillions of dollars spent on the war on terror conducted in foreign countries such as Afghanistan and other areas of the Middle East. Does the protection of commercial enterprises warrant more dollars and attention than that of protecting children in public schools? Why are public schools not thought of as potential targets and of national security importance? Is a plane full of passengers more valuable than a school facility teeming with children? Surely children should be a priority over a for-profit institution.
Many of us believe that domestic terrorism in the form of active shooters in schools is an anomaly event; a rare occurrence. The FBI compiles and publishes various documents related to domestic terrorism and active shooters. In the document “Active Shooter Incidents in the United States from 2000 – 2016”,   there have been thirty active shooter reports on elementary, middle, and high schools during this time. By their own report and admission, shootings at public schools are on the rise. When University and other educational facilities are included, active shooters reports in an educational setting represent approximately 22% of the total. Pre-k to 12th grade comprise an astounding 15% of the 22% of the total active shooter events in the United States. Education ranks second behind events occurring in commerce (43%). Given the large number of public schools, hours of operation, and numbers of students; in the larger picture, the probability of being involved in an attack on a school campus is slim. The same argument can be made of commerce, where there are exponentially more potential targets than education.
The scope of the problem is not the issue for debate. The issue in question is the scope of the problem relative to the inequity of the resources devoted to protecting commercial interests versus public schools. We should not be advocates for reducing protections for commercial enterprise. A strong economy is good public policy and reducing the angst of potential disruption in the commercial marketplace by terrorists benefit everyone. We simply propose to treat public schools with the same proportional level of protection and allocation of resources found commonly in an airport or a courthouse. The responsibility for providing this protection lies with the very same organizations that publicly acknowledged they failed to protect the children in Parkland High School; a discomforting thought, but an acknowledgment that may spur policymakers to rethink how scarce financial resources are being allocated.
The next time you walk through an airport security checkpoint to board a plane, ask yourself this question. If we can provide this level of security in a public airport, why not provide the same level of protection to the children in public schools?

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