|Yes, Alice Street is a small street on Ann Arbor's west side. |
No, it doesn't have anything to do with the ALICE program--
except that they share a name.
Photo by Ruth Kraut
In Article #2 (which was actually published first), the school board discusses restricting access to schools in a major, major way--so that all doors will be locked to all schools during the school day. The cost--at this point--is estimated to be nearly $200,000 and to come out of the sinking fund.
According to the article:
This year, the district is planning to implement a new policy: Locking all exterior doors on school buildings during daytime hours. The implementation date has yet to be determined.I don't believe the full board has voted on this. I got the impression from the article that they took a sense of the board but that voting on this will be on a future agenda.
But in order to lock all of the doors, they need to find a way to let people in. And therein lies the cost.
According to the article,
The district is considering several methods that would give certain individuals access to the building during school hours:What will this cost?
- Using a keypad system in which parents and other qualified individuals get a code that will allow them access to a main door
- Using a video surveillance and intercom buzzer system that only allows a staff member inside the building to admit someone in from the outside
The estimated cost* to implement the new security measures is $190,000, which the district has allocated in its 2013-14 property upkeep budget funded by its sinking fund millage. The district also wants to replace all of its schools' exterior doors in the next five years should the sinking fund millage be renewed.[*Slight digression: I'm not sure how we estimate the cost if we don't know what system we would use. My guess is that this estimate is quite low given the number of schools the district has.]
Do we need this system? Will it make our schools safer?I don't believe so.
As a parent, I think this is a terrible idea. It will overburden school office staff (who have already had additional duties added/cuts made over the past several years). It creates an impediment for parents coming into the building to volunteer or to pick up their children for doctor's appointments, for special presenters, for staff meetings.
And most importantly, those locked door policies give an illusion and false sense of security. In fact, in the Newtown, Connecticut shootings (referenced by Andy Thomas in the article), the schools had those locked door security measures. It didn't make a difference.
[In the Columbine school shooting, there was an armed guard in the building. It also didn't make a difference.]
From CNN: Earlier this year, the [ed. note: Newtown Sandy Hook elementary] school principal, Dawn Lafferty Hochsprung, ordered a new security system installed that required visitors to be visibly identified and buzzed in. As part of the security system, the school locked its doors each day at 9:30 a.m. The door was locked when the gunman arrived.
On December 19, 2012, after the Newtown Connecticut shooting, the Interdisciplinary Group on Preventing School and Community Violence, an impressive array of violence prevention researchers, including some who specialize in school security, put out a School Shooting Position Statement. They wrote:
"Inclinations to intensify security in schools should be reconsidered. We cannot and should not turn our schools into fortresses."
Right. I want our schools to be community centers.
Part of their statement reads:
Inclinations to intensify security in schools should be reconsidered. We cannot and should not turn our schools into fortresses. Effective prevention cannot wait until there is a gunman in a school parking lot. We need resources such as mental health supports and threat assessment teams in every school and community so that people can seek assistance when they recognize that someone is troubled and requires help. For communities, this speaks to a need for increased access to well integrated service structures across mental health, law enforcement, and related agencies. We must encourage people to seek help when they see that someone is embroiled in an intense, persistent conflict or is deeplyThe National Association of School Psychologists, in a 2013 position paper titled Research on School Security: The Impact of Security Measures on Students, writes:
troubled. If we can recognize and ameliorate these kinds of situations, then we will be more able to prevent violence. These issues require attention at the school and community levels. We believe that research supports a thoughtful approach to safer schools, guided by four key elements: Balance, Communication, Connectedness, and Support, along with strengthened attention to mental health needs in the community, structured threat assessment approaches, revised policies on youth exposure to violent media, and increased efforts to limit inappropriate access to guns and especially, assault type weapons.
The widespread public impression that schools are unsafe—fueled by rare, but highly visible school shootings—is contradicted by empirical evidence. (endnotes 22, 23) In fact, schools are not only safe, but are arguably safer today than they were a decade ago. (endnote 24)
Well, then, what would I suggest?I am in favor of keeping most of the school's doors locked and directing access through the main door of each school. That makes sense to me. There will probably be some small cost in creating signs directing people to the main doors. And in some schools, you cannot see the door that is currently used as the main door from the main office. There probably should be some way to monitor those doors. At Ann Arbor Open, that involved adding another interior window to the Ann Arbor Open office.
And while we're discussing this, did you know. . .that although it is illegal to carry a concealed weapon into a school in Michigan, it is apparently legal to openly carry a weapon into a Michigan school? No, I'm not making that up. The father of a Clio-area child apparently did just that recently. Read more about the law and the "incident" here.
Other Good Ideas
The Interdisciplinary Group on Preventing School and Community Violence also wrote that:
Concerned students, parents, educators, and stakeholders in the community should attend to troubling behaviors that signal something is amiss. For example, if a person utters threats to engage in a violent act or displays a pronounced change of mood and related social behavior, or is engaged in a severe conflict with family members or coworkers, it makes sense to communicate concerns to others who might provide assistance. Early identification is important not only to prevent violence, but to provide troubled individuals the support, treatment, and help they need.As far as I know, the only person who has been killed in a school in the last 30 (or more? maybe many more?) years in Washtenaw County was the Superintendent of the Chelsea Schools. A Chemistry teacher, Stephen Leith, who was being disciplined, left the school after a grievance hearing, and returned with a gun, killing Joseph Piasecki and injuring CHS principal Ronald Meade and English teacher Phil Jones (Managing Violence in the Workplace, Capozzoli and McVey, pp. 9-13). In hindsight--and I know, hindsight is perfect--the strategy suggested immediately above by the Interdisciplinary Group (a communications strategy) might have helped. Locked doors with key cards would have done nothing.
So, About That Sinking Fund Money...
Please don't spend our hard-earned sinking fund monies on this, because then it makes me feel like I shouldn't support the next round of the sinking fund millage. There is plenty of other important stuff to spend those funds on, and I want to vote for the next sinking fund millage, but if the school board votes to use this money on such a poorly-thought out idea, I am not sure I can do it.
And I will reiterate what I wrote above: locked door policies as proposed above have not been shown to be protective, and they are a waste of our money.