Pop-Up Post: War in the Classroom
On December 14, 2012, 20-year-old Adam Lanza walked into Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut—armed to the teeth with plenty of guns and ammunition—and murdered 20 kids and 6 adults before finally committing suicide. It was the second deadliest mass shooting in American history—behind the 2007 Virginia Tech massacre—and brought school safety back into the national spotlight.
Since Newtown, there has been talk of placing armed police officers in every school across the nation, hiring school marshals who would function like air marshals or even training and arming the teachers themselves. Thankfully, some schools have focused on less violent measures and shifted from offense to defense.
The University of Maryland-Eastern Shore is one such institution.
Instead of bringing even more guns and weapons into their school, the people at UMES are bringing something far less deadly: shields.
They’re actually whiteboards, but they double as shields… bulletproof shields. The whiteboards are manufactured by Hardwire LLC out of Pocomoke City, Maryland—a company that designs protective systems for law enforcement and the military—but they are best known for producing thousands of armor kits that were then used to reinforce U.S. Mine Resistant Ambushed Protected vehicles.
Each bulletproof whiteboard measures 18-by-20 inches and is large enough to cover the average person’s head and torso. While they may not save everyone, they do provide an effective first level of defense. And if even one life is saved, they will be well worth the $60,000 UMES is paying for them. By the time students begin their classes later this month, the whiteboards will be ready and waiting. But I ask you, is this really enough?
I started thinking about other ways to protect students in the classroom and two very distinct ideas came to mind. It is sad that instead of brainstorming improvements to academics, we have to consider school safety, but someone has to, right?
The first idea is nothing more than a safe room—also known as a panic room—on a much larger scale. I know this would be very expensive to implement, but perhaps individual classrooms could be fortified with bulletproof glass, unbreakable doors and locks secured by steel rods. There could also be some kind of emergency communication system in each room, as well as a small cache of supplies in case of an extensive lock down.
At the first sign of trouble—in this case an active shooter on campus—instructors could immediately secure themselves and their students within an impenetrable classroom, one which can only be unlocked from within. As the would-be killer grows frustrated—having been robbed of victims and, consequently, relevance—authorities would rush to the scene to put an end to the incident… and not a single drop of blood would have to be spilled.
As I said, though, implementing these security measures across the board would carry a hefty price tag, even if older institutions could be retrofitted to comply with new security standards. More likely will be private schools or colleges that feature this kind of enhanced security as a draw for students: “Come to Safeteefor U, where every room is a safe room… even the bathroom!”
I don’t see the appeal, but someone else might.
My second school safety idea isn’t so much a safety measure as it is an enhancement of the safe rooms I just mentioned.
During a school lock-down—especially a long one, as might happen during a hostage negotiation—supplies may be crucial, and none more so than food. Unfortunately, storing food for an extended period of time can be tricky. Anything fresh is liable to spoil quickly, but longer lasting canned foods take up too much space. We need to find a compact, convenient food that takes up very little space yet offers both nutrition and flavor in the event of an emergency.
And I think I have the solution.
What if we could freeze dry food—much like the food eaten by astronauts in space—seal it somehow, mold it into products and then keep it handy in case of trouble? In a classroom, it could be used to create chairs, desks, bookcases, cabinets, flooring and almost anything else. During an emergency, these objects could be broken open, separated from their linings, combined with water and then consumed by locked-down students and teachers indefinitely.
In other words, make sure every safe room/classroom has a water source and the furniture and equipment inside it becomes food… lots of food.
Okay. These ideas are both a little far-fetched and clearly will never happen, but at least I have school safety on the brain. I work at a small private college and could face an active shooter someday. Hopefully not, but it certainly could happen, so I need to be prepared. And the college needs to be prepared.
I just don’t know if we can afford bulletproof whiteboards!
Posted on August 18, 2013, in Perspectives and tagged commentary, current-events, news, Newtown Connecticut, perspectives, Safe room, safety, School shooting, security, University of Maryland-Eastern Shore, Virginia Tech massacre, Whiteboard. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.