My local school district, the Ichabod Crane Central School District in New York’s Hudson Valley, recently held a vote on a capital improvement project with a price tag of $27,115,200. This massive project—passed by less than seventy votes—will update and modernize the district’s facilities and buildings and address long-deferred repairs to the deteriorating infrastructure of the district’s primary, middle, and high schools.
The project will address five key areas: health and safety,academics and program, physical education and athletics, building infrastructure, and site infrastructure. Upon reviewing the outline of the scope of work, my attention focused on a few of the bullet points listed under the “health and safety” category. There I discovered that the proposal calls for modest, enhanced security features for the campus’s three school buildings.These include security glazing film at the entry vestibules and the installation of bullet-resistant security transaction windows and drawers.
Thankfully, my school district has so far escaped the tragedy of an active-shooter incident. Still, the threat is present and real. As we’ve learned from the tragedies at schools across the country, it takes just one angry, lost kid with access to deadly firearms to carry out a violent incident that becomes everyone’s worst nightmare. With that threat always present, school districts and communities are being forced to consider expensive security measures that would have been unthinkable in the past.
The range of security measures runs the gamut from modest retrofits, like those proposed by my local school district, to more extensive and expensive planning, such as complete building redesign, like the plan for the rebuild of the Sandy Hook Elementary School. In answer to the public health crisis of school shootings, administrators and school boards are being forced to consider an array of new security measures, such as bullet-proof doors, replacement of entryways with a single, administrator- or security officer-monitored main entrance, safe rooms constructed of concrete, bullet-resistant window and door glass, and even building siting on raised ground and landscaping to increase visibility and control exterior access. And, of course, there’s the additional cost of human and behavioral security upgrades and training, such as generating active-shooter and evacuation plans, the hiring of additional security staff, and, in some districts, the dangerous and ill-conceived proposal that would allow teachers to be armed with firearms in the classroom.
How did we get to the point where we have been forced to consider covering the costs of school security as a result of our schools devolving from being safe havens to places of danger that threaten the lives of children?
There are certainly many answers—both sociological and political—to that difficult question. But beyond any doubt, one of the primary answers is that the threat to our children is the inevitable result of the failure of our elected representatives in our states and at the federal level to muster the political will to pass common sense gun laws favored by an overwhelming majority of Americans, including gun owners and NRA members.
Universal background checks. A ban on the sale of military-style weapons. These are measures that studies show will protect our children and make it more difficult for kids to harm kids.
What’s the result of failing to pass common sense laws that will keep our children safe? Statistics show the story of our government’s malfeasance. Since 2009, there have been 288 school shootings. The U.S. has the highest rate of gun-related deaths,suicides, and homicides among the top thirty-four advanced economies in the world where access to firearms is restricted.
The fact is that school-security measures come with a price tag that communities may simply be unable to afford. With all of the other costs that communities need to fund for the education of our children—facility maintenance and upgrades, teacher salaries, transportation, healthcare costs for school employees—we may ultimately be forced to face the impossible choice of choosing whether to fund improvement of the educational experience or voting to fund security measures. With that thorny dilemma poised to become reality, shouldn’t we be questioning who should be responsible for the cost of the security measures required to keep schools safe in a culture that is flooded with dangerous firearms?
The answer may be that we need to begin a serious conversation about considering the creation of a school-safety tax to be levied on the industry that profits royally from the sales of the weapons that are harming our children. That is, the gun manufacturers.