There’s a lot of talk going around about how best to protect our children against an attack by a school shooter, and it’s a dialog we need to be having – but everyone is leaving out a crucial vulnerability.
We’re talking about “hardening” schools against potential shooters with things like automated systems that will lock doors, alert law enforcement, and deploy countermeasures against an attacker. We’re talking about making our school campuses as secure as prisons – which is actually pretty smart, when you stop to think about it. It’s sad that we even need to think about these things, but prisons know how to handle emergency lockdown situations, and in today’s world, we’d be wise to adopt some of their practices.
Which is fine. All of it. Honestly, if that’s what it takes to keep our children safe, then let’s do it, or at least keep talking about it until we find the answer. They’re all valid ideas worth discussing, and I’m not here to argue for or against any of them.
I’m also not here to advocate gun control or defend the second amendment, either. Plenty of people way smarter than me are already doing that on both sides, which is fantastic. Having a serious discussion about the issue is the first step to finding a solution that works for everyone.
That said, all anyone is doing is proposing ways to lock down a campus and contain a shooter. It’s all about keeping bad guys out of the school in the first place, or keeping them contained if they do get in. Which, again, is a discussion worth having.
However, the issue no one is bringing up is the single most vulnerable aspect of a school campus: the pick-up line, which is something I’ve been thinking about since the first day I picked up my kid from school after the Florida shooting, but I’ve been hesitant to write about it for fear of giving some lunatic out there any ideas.
I’ve wrestled with raising awareness over this for days, but I was finally forced to come to the inevitable conclusion that I’m not nearly as smart as I think I am, so I can’t possibly be the only person who’s thought about this. Therefore, it’s better to talk about it now, before something happens, rather than to wait until it’s too late.
When a visitor wants to visit most any school campus these days, they must first go through a sort of airlock situation in the front lobby, prove who they are and that they have a valid reason for being there, and often times have their IDs scanned. This is good. We should keep doing this.
The pick-up line works differently, though. Every day when school lets out, there’s a line of cars snaking through the campus and trailing out into the street of most every elementary and middle school across the nation. Students are usually huddled into a tight group outside, often under some sort of carport, while they wait for their parents to make it through the line to pick them up.
The problem is that there’s no airlock to go through in the pick-up line. Any crazed gunman who wants can pull into it and patiently wait his turn to pull up next to the carport before unleashing the unthinkable.
The kids are so densely packed under the carport that it would take only seconds for a tragedy to unfold that dwarfs other school shootings, including the one in Florida. Even with an armed officer on duty with a lightning-quick reaction time and a perfect response to eliminate the threat, it’s still an unthinkable scenario.
And it’s one no one is talking about. Trust me, I’ve been listening.
There are things we could do to mitigate this threat, and some schools are already on top of it, but all of them need to be.
Keeping students inside instead of leaving them exposed under a carport is the most obvious first step. Then, through the use of school radios or even a smartphone app, students could be called outside as their parents pull up to get them. No groups of students should be standing outside, exposed and vulnerable. Not anymore.
People more qualified than me can sort out the logistics of such an operation, but since I first thought of this problem, it’s all I’ve thought about. We need to add this to the discussion when we’re talking about hardening schools – because, as the saying goes, a chain is only as strong as its weakest link.
Right now, the weakest link is the pick-up line.
And it terrifies me.
© 2018, Kristian Bland. All rights reserved.