School Shootings: Rational Thought, Fear Reduction and Prevention are the Key

Updated: May 31

The Frederick News-Post, April 28, 2018

By Karl Bickel

Now is the time for rational thought as we search for better ways to keep Frederick County students safe from the possibility of a school shooting. What we need are rational decisions based on fact, not fear-mongering and knee-jerk reactions based on emotion. The primary focus should be on prevention so we do not have to respond to a shooter or tragedy in the aftermath.

In a February interview on WMAL radio’s “Everything Larry,” the current sheriff stated:

“Listen, there is a lot of conversations out there. I am going to go to my school board before long and propose, and I thought about this after Sandy Hook several years ago ... I would be very much in favor of school security teams that are armed and trained up and have the fortitude and the willingness to be a security staff inside of a school, say a group of five or six people trained in every school to protect that school, to protect those students. I think it’s workable. I think it’s doable. And I’m going to make that proposal here fairly soon.”

This would presumably be armed teachers and staff making up this “security staff” since hiring up to half a dozen new security personnel for each school would be cost-prohibitive.

What if you had a school where no one volunteered to be part of this “security staff”? What if you had only one or two volunteers? Who will provide the training, and how frequently will retraining occur? Who will pay for the training, firearms and accessories (ammunition, holsters, etc.)? Will there be any psychological screening of teacher/staff volunteers? Who will pay for that? The list of implementation costs and concerns goes on.

Introducing up to half a dozen firearms into a school, into the hands of people who already have an overwhelming number of complex responsibilities, presents a serious safety concern. There may be a greater chance of a tragedy occurring as a result of introducing these firearms into a school than from an external threat.

In one week in March, there were three accidental discharges of firearms in schools. One was by a schoolteacher in California and another by a school resource officer in Virginia, and these were in the hands of people with training. What happens when a student gets hold of a “security staff” person’s firearm? The scenarios in which that could happen are limitless.

This discussion would not be complete without mentioning the degree of the actual threat. The first recorded school shooting in the U.S. was in Virginia in 1840. So it is not new.

David Ropeik of Harvard University has estimated the chances of a student being the victim of a fatal school shooting on any given day as 1 in 614 million, and since the 1990s the number of school shootings has been going down. A child has a greater chance of being killed going to or from school, or playing on a sports team. So let’s put the fear-mongering to bed and focus on some real protections that may actually provide added benefits, benefits beyond prevention of a school shooting.

Let’s provide increased training for our school resource officers, school counselors, school administrators, and teachers to recognize and work with at-risk students. We need to ensure school counselor and school resource officer positions are fully staffed. We need to educate the community on what to look for and better train our law enforcement personnel in identifying and following up on potential threats.

Of course we want to ensure that our students, our children, are as safe as possible. We want to employ any reasonable measure to protect them from any likely threat.

Let’s make sure our community’s response to school shootings is rational and preventive, and not veiled fear-mongering for political purposes.

Originally published in The Frederick News-Post:

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