EDITORIAL: Securing America’s schools

Freedom shouldn’t be the casualty of a tragic incident

Both on the left and the right there are calls for enhancing security in schools in the wake of the Dec. 14 mass murder at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn. Sen. Barbara Boxer, California Democrat, wants to deploy the National Guard to protect our classrooms. Her proposal included the establishment of a $50 million grant program that would help schools buy more metal detectors, surveillance cameras and other high-tech security measures. Turning America’s schools into fortresses isn’t the solution.

In arguing her case, Mrs. Boxer cited 258 school shooting deaths since 1999 as the reason Congress should act immediately to save the children, but the senator’s figure includes suicides and deaths of adults. Removing those, the sad tally is closer to five deaths per year out of a K-12 school population of 55.5 million. That’s far too many, but a child is several times more likely to die from a car crash or even a lightning strike than from being shot by an assailant on school grounds.

Given the rarity of such incidents, it’s vital to consider whether particular protectionist measures will produce more harm than good. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, an average of 27 children under the age of 14 die every day from causes including poisoning, fires, disease and accidents. These are all individual tragedies, but they don’t capture the spotlight. We run the risk of diverting resources from more pressing needs when addressing a high-profile community tragedy on the scale of Newtown.

It’s also not clear that a government program to save the children could ever fully succeed in thwarting evil men intent on wrongdoing. As history has shown, the lack of guns doesn’t mean classrooms are safe. In 1927, a twisted person set off a bomb at a school in Bath Township, Mich., killing 38 children and six adults. If every child in America were subjected to an airport-style X-ray and pat-down search before starting a day of learning, the procedures would just push the danger zone back one step. Instead of being vulnerable in the schoolhouse, children would be at risk when they stepped off the school bus.

Though the benefits of creating maximum-security schools is questionable, the negative impact on young minds is undeniable. Surveillance cameras would watch a child’s every move from kindergarten through high school. GPS devices would track them, and biometric scanners and identification cards would ensure compliance with all attendance regulations. This normalizes a police state. Instead of learning self-reliance, kids would grow up with a state-supplied — and illusory — security blanket.

National Rifle Association CEO Wayne LaPierre infuriated the left by calling for armed guards in schools — essentially a privatized version of the idea floated by Mrs. Boxer. Mr. LaPierre rightly recognizes that the “gun-free school zone” concept has been a failure and the lack of an immediate armed response contributed to the magnitude of the Sandy Hook horror. Mr. LaPierre’s common sense gets in the way of those who would exploit tragedy to implement a ready-made anti-gun agenda.

Still, armed guards aren’t needed in every school. Measures ought to be evaluated on a case-by-case basis to stop the rare outbreaks of violence in a way that doesn’t turn places of learning into prisons.

The Washington Times

© Copyright 2014 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

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