I don’t often write about school, neither mine nor The Boy’s because it puts me in a precarious position. And I just don’t want to go there. Yet.
But there is one thing that I think I can safely generalize about public school systems today, and that is the preponderance of “band-aids”: quick-fix measures to address very real, very big problems. These “measures” are often implemented in a hurried fashion, without much forethought, and end up being a patch-as-you-go solution which doesn’t really work for anyone, but is there so that we can say we have it.
For instance, after Newtown, The Boy’s school realized that in the morning and afternoons, they were allowing parents (and virtually anyone) unfettered access to the school due to drop-off and pick-up for Kids Club (but also clubs and other sponsored events after hours). The day following Newtown, the door was locked in the morning. No letter home, no signs on the door. Nothing. Because we are almost always first to school, we had to pound on the door to get the custodian to come and open it up for us. Later that same week was The Boy’s school band concert, held during the school day, and every single parent attending the concert had to be buzzed in, and had to report to the office, sign in, and get a visitors badge. That’s about 100 people!
After break, they had installed a new bell to push, which rings in the gym so that a kids club worker can answer the door. Can you imagine how often those people are running back and forth (as opposed to, you know, supervising children)? And what if the person is ringing to be let in for some club other than kids club? Do they let them in if they don’t recognize them? And what if there is an event going on in the gym, like a parent meeting, concert, or girls scout ceremony, and that bell rings? Not to mention that the bell is loud, and rings like an old fashioned fire alarm… Yup. A fire alarm sound for all of those kids on the spectrum. Going off about every 4 minutes. How nice.
And the response to people who ask these questions is, “We’re working on it.”
I get it. You want to make your school safe, and you want to make it safe now (although, why this wasn’t considered after Columbine, I don’t know). Except that a little notification, and some planning and forethought (and maybe a little money spent) upfront would go a lot further than a piecemeal, thoughtless plan like this, that is still being “worked on”.
This is where schools look unprofessional, because it really is. And this is only an example of the many “band-aids” I witness myself and hear about from others like this, almost on a daily basis. I know educators are short on time and money, but those are really just excuses. There is no sense in not doing something right the first time, from the get-go, with a carefully thought out plan. And there really is no excuse.
I have to say I’m impressed with my school’s new safety measures. The doors are unlocked throughout the building for the first 15 minutes of school. After that, everyone has to report to the front doors and there is a camera buzzer that our secretary uses to admit people. We dont’ have too many after-school functions, so I could see that being a nuisance if we did, but so far it seems to be working for us! I think the thing that really needs to be considered is that if someone really wanted to get into a school (say, a mad man with a gun) they would be able to. What do we do then?
Yours are very similar to the school where I work. You have hit the nail on the head, Laura. All of the rest of this is just window dressing.