By Solon Pan Zafiropoulos
After the recent tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, CT, I was both horrified that something like this could happen, and sad for all those helpless, and innocent little children who lost their precious lives to a sick, and evil coward. The one place we all felt was still safe even after 9/11; a place even the most hardened criminal or terrorist would never target – is no more. Similar to how we all felt after 9/11, we now know that evil follows no rules for men, women, and now children. Our great society has reached a new low where chivalry, and honor have been replaced by evil and cowardice. 12/14 will be the new starting point for what should be yet another call to action for new safety measures in our nation, this time aimed to protect our youngest Americans. I can only imagine the pain those parents must endure, and how with heavy hearts they must try to move forward and stay strong, especially if they have other children.
Upon hearing this sad news on December 14th, I became concerned about the well being of my own children in a world shared with anarchy and evil. As the father of 3 small children, the tragedy in Newtown, CT drives home the need for getting involved more with my children’s school on safety measures moving forward. They attend a conservative private school, which like other similar schools, has a buzzer/camera system that everyone must use in order to gain entry. However, with the alarming increase in school violence over the last 14 years, it’s clear that more needs to be done to stop this upward trend in our educational system. We can no longer depend on traditional methods for security, and we can’t just depend on our President and government leaders to help protect our schools. The famous quote from John Kennedy rings loud and clear again today when he famously said, ”Ask not what your country can do for you – ask what you can do for your country”. It should be up to all of us on how we move forward from the devastating massacre of innocent young lives at Sandy Hook in Newtown, CT. Gun control has been needed for years; as it’s been far too easy for anyone to obtain firearms, but it’s not a cure all end all. Just as the war on illegal drugs hasn’t done much to eradicate violence, strict gun regulations will prove just as ineffective. If people want to obtain either, they can. Increased mental health programs may help, but again not nearly enough to quell these kinds of violent acts. Knowing full well that there is a chance for copycat acts of violence, we must take action to join together in developing better security standards. So, what immediate and effective ways are there to tackle this growing threat to our schools? The best defense is a good offense!
Some say an armed guard would be the answer. An armed guard costs $60,000-$70,000 per year and doesn’t do nearly enough to protect an entire school. Think about that for a minute, how quickly could 1 or even 2 armed guards arrive in time to help prevent danger? WHY NOT spend that much or a little less to integrate an internal camera system, along with converting every hallway and classroom door into automatic swinging doors that can be remotely locked down in a moments notice? Similar to what you see being used for security in hospitals and universities by manufacturers such as Stanley Security Solutions, who produce high security doors, and Tormax. The idea is to create a series of sealed off chambers strong enough to provide both a safe haven for children in danger, as well as to isolate the perpetrator. This delay would give enough time for police to arrive, and the integrated camera system would give administrators the ability to monitor the exact whereabouts of this danger within the school complex. This measure would make a great first and second line defense to securing schools, and then if need be – combine this with one undercover-armed agent either from the Department of Homeland Security, or privately hired. But really, just the concept of an integrated camera system along with automatic swinging doors throughout a school alone would have a big impact in deterring school violence. Michigan and other states are pushing for having teachers trained to have access to, and using a gun in an emergency, but I’m afraid this opens up a whole new can of worms. School staff should only have to focus on teaching our children, and following safety procedures in order to lead in times of crisis like those brave women at Sandy Hook.
I believe this defensive solution quickly isolates danger and severely delays or eliminates casualties. It could prove a more immediate and effective solution compared with increased mental health programs and gun control as strategies for curbing school violence. Both Private AND public schools from Newtown, CT and throughout the rest of the country should consider a defensive system like this. Private schools could raise the capital for this kind of project thru a small one-time assessment per student. Or, a small increase in annual tuition per child would help absorb the immediate cost and help cover any future maintenance as well. For public schools, this could be done with a very small increase in taxes to cover the costs and maintenance of such a project. Diverting tax dollars away from wasteful spending and cracking down on Medicare and Welfare fraud are another great way to obtain public funding. Opponents might say that something like this would increase government spending, and also expand the job of Homeland Security. I agree, but the purpose of the government is to serve the people, and let’s not forget that this would also create more jobs for our economy! If our leaders are going to invest in rebuilding America’s bridges and roads to create more jobs, shouldn’t we reinforce our educational buildings to protect the little citizens who are the future of this great country as well? We can no longer keep things business as usual after the tragic Sandy Hook elementary killings in Newtown, CT, more steps must be taken to ensure child safety.
This type of defensive solution is too over board you say? Maybe 20 years ago it would have been viewed as such, but today it’s a must. I’m not suggesting we build a moat, or erect fortress walls around our schools like they did in the Middle Ages. But, our society is in a dangerous place similar to those times, and so we need to keep an open mind on better ways of protecting our young. These are just my ideas, and I don’t claim to be an expert, but I believe we all need to initiate discussions on ways to advance security for all elementary schools, both public and private, here in the US and abroad. These last few days are surely a time of great sadness and grieving for the victim’s families, and will take many years to heal. But, the tragic events that unfolded at Sandy Hook in Newtown, CT should also serve as a wake up call for us to implement more safety measures for the protection of innocent and helpless children. I sincerely hope our government leaders take the time to discuss tangible solutions but also that parents become more involved in school meetings to discuss improved safety measures that will help address this alarming trend in violence. We owe that at least to those 26 innocent children and teachers who lost their lives on 12/14.
God bless you, your families, the victims and all of their families, and all of the innocent children who deserve a normal life free of evil, and free of danger – especially when they’re at school!