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Thursday, May 5, 2016

Ross Rambles: Seeking protection from monsters

Monday, May 7, 2007

A Far Side cartoon from Gary Larson, now retired, depicts a child in bed with a snorkel designed specifically for breathing under the blankets that protect him from bedroom monsters.

It is well known that exposure of even the tiniest amount of a child's body makes the child vulnerable to the monsters that lurk in the darkness.

Children may not be able to banish imaginary evil creatures but they can gain a sense of security by creating boundaries that the creatures cannot cross.

We have created security blanket boundaries to keep out the not-quite imaginary monsters awaiting a chance to attack children in our public schools.

There will undoubtedly be numerous security measures suggested in response to the recent mass shootings at a college in Virginia, but that is not what I'm referring to here. What I'm talking about is the K-12 school system, where security measures have been implemented as a result of last year's killing of five girls at a school in Pennsylvania.

Area schools, including the Cherokee School District, began a policy of having only one door unlocked during the school day in order to discourage deranged killers from entering the building.

To further discourage homicidal visitors, all visitors are supposed to sign in at the office immediately upon entering the building and be issued name tags.

The practice doesn't affect anybody's ability to exit the building by any door, it just makes everybody enter the building through the door nearest to the main office.

The hope is that an alert staff member will confront an intruder, stating something like, "Excuse me sir or madam, as the case may be, I noticed that you did not go into the office to register your presence and get a name tag. That, along with the fact that you are carrying an AK-47 automatic rifle, leads me to suspect you are here for an unauthorized purpose. Although by confronting you, I may be sacrificing my life, I am hopefully buying a few seconds for children and staff to flee and for police officers to arrive, assuming that the few seconds advantage is not negated by the delay to police officers caused by locked doors."

The gunman might not be so obvious as to openly carry an AK-47, in which case the intruder is not likely to be confronted or even noticed. The name tag requirement seems to have been discarded in Cherokee and I must confess, at the risk of lengthy imprisonment, that I have skipped the signing in process when in a hurry to get to a photo opportunity at the high school.

Actually, the gunman is more than likely to be a student who is not required to sign in upon entering the building. During mass school shootings in the U.S. since 1927, all but four were committed by students and one of the four was committed by a custodian. One of the remaining three gunmen shot students on a playground from the outside, with no attempt to go inside. Hopefully, the students were not prevented from seeking shelter inside the building by some misguided locked door policy.

The existence of sexual predators is another concern that some people might feel justifies locking side doors. A sexual predator could enter a side door and snatch a child in the hallway.

I don't know whether there are statistics regarding this occurrence, but I assume it has happened rarely, if ever. Sexual predators usually think out their actions rather than acting on impulse, which makes an abduction attempt inside a school building while it is in session highly improbable.

If there is any chance at all, no matter how remote, that an action could save a life, shouldn't we do it? No, not if there is a slightly less remote chance that the action could cause a death.

It is possible that a delay in getting into a school building during a storm could cause a fatality. It is also possible that a fatality could be caused by a delay to firefighters, paramedics or law enforcement officers trying to enter a building.

A death being caused by locking a side door during the school day is not likely, but it involves a less contrived scenario than a death being caused by leaving a door unlocked.

When making policy decisions, we should not act like children terrified of monsters.