Fort Knox or an Elementary School

Posted on February 22, 2019

Fort Knox or an Elementary School

My trainings take me into more and more schools, or should I say fortresses!

Due to school shootings and other dangerous situations that happen at our schools, buildings once designed to welcome students and the community now feel more “locked down” than the juvenile justice residential facilities I worked in early in my career. On the one hand I TOTALLY understand the stepped-up security. We should do everything in our power to protect our children and their educators (including my wife!).

On the other hand, I struggle greatly with this national trend. First, a recent New York Times article found that schools are really the safest place a student spends time during their entire day. Most violence experienced at school was from another student. In other words, schools are safe, and threats come more from classmates than from the community.

Second, creating a welcoming and warm environment for students and families is a central pillar of any trauma-sensitive school. Is this compatible when we ask families entering to get background checks and show identification before entering a classroom? How do we balance safety with not making parents and community members feel like they are a threat until they prove otherwise?

It seems the mindset in all education is “everyone is a threat until proven otherwise.” Again, my wife is a teacher, and I want her as safe as possible. However, I worry about the messages we send to families who might already hesitate because of immigration status, criminal records, or distrust of the “system.” I’m fine jumping through any hoop; I worry that all the security might look like a closed door to families that are already vulnerable.

One response to “Fort Knox or an Elementary School”

  1. Barbara DiPietro says:

    This is a hugely relevant topic, Matt—thanks for your thoughtful post today. School districts are diverting significant budget expenditures AWAY from books and technology into bullet-proof white boards and gun training. It’s shocking actually, and it undermines what really makes us safe and facilitates a learning environment. We have to advocate for more rational responses.

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