Armed guards patrol the perimeter of a fenced facility. Vehicles are inspected as they travel in and out of a checkpoint with more armed guards and police dogs.
The facility is not a prison or military base. Itís an elementary school. Itís a middle school. Itís a high school. Itís a college.
Students, teachers and staff pass through metal detectors at an entrance manned by more armed guards. Inside even more armed guards roam the halls, making rounds through classrooms, bathrooms, offices and dining rooms. Outside, they patrol playgrounds, school grounds, gymnasiums and sports fields.
Will elementary school children and other students really feel safe in such an environment? Or will they be traumatized by the constant reminder that theyíre in danger? Who thinks there has to be a better way?
The National Rifle Association and others say we can keep our children safe using gun-toting guards at our schools. Maybe my imagination is working overtime but I canít help but visualize something closer to a police state.
But I donít like guns. They make me nervous. My fatherís father was killed in a hunting accident years ago. I never knew him. We didnít have guns in our house. We didnít have guns in our schools.
I lived through integration in the early 1970s. I remember too well the tension in the hallways during those first few months as black and whites were forced together. There were threats, fights and rumors of knives, but no guns. The biggest problems were caused by outsiders bused in to hold protests in the park just outside the school grounds. But they didnít bring guns.
I remember feeling worried, but never really scared. Most of my teachers did a good job of making a place where everyone felt they belonged. Attitudes made a huge difference.
I canít imagine going to school in a place where armed guards were the norm. I fear that arming our schools would create a belief that we canít be safe without protection of guards. I think the lesson we would communicate to our children would cause undue harm. I fear it would lead to more confrontations involving guns as we teach our kids to associate guns with safety and self-protection.
We have to address the reasons our youth are turning to violence. We need to better train our teachers and school counselors in mental health issues and ask them to look closer for signs of children and youth who need help. Instead of ignoring those who donít quite fit in, the quiet ones, the belligerent ones, the anti-social kids, they need to stand up for them, protect them and in turn protect everyone around them.
Parents have to be more responsible. They have to pay attention to their kids. They have to reach out for help if needed. And help must be available. Parenting isnít taught in schools, although I think it should be. Parents are responsible for their children, but society needs to be responsible for making sure parenting is an important part of our world.
Our kids are hurting. Violence and killing are romanticized on TV, in video games and on news broadcasts. Theyíre becoming desensitized to blood and death. No one is teaching them the difference between pretend and reality. No one is teaching them that violence is not the answer.
While arming schools might indeed prevent future tragedies, it wonít do away with the reasons our youth are choosing such drastic actions.
Why do they do what they do? Where do the ideas come from? How do they learn to shoot and kill? How do they get access to the weapons? What would make a kid choose to shoot down teachers, fellow classmates or in the more recent case, innocent elementary school children?
Until we find those answers, we canít prevent other tragedies. We can arm our schools and meet violence with violence. But is that the means to an end or just a way to perpetuate tragedy?
We must come together and find a better way to deal with this problem and keep guns out of our schools. Our kids are depending on us.
Iím not anti-guns. They have their purposes and Americans certainly have the legal rights to own them. But, do guns really create a safer environment? I think not.