Schools throughout the Nation re-evaluated security policies in the days following the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary in Connecticut. And while media did what they could to portray the shooter’s mother, Nancy Lanza, as an off-the-rails “doomsday prepper,” many parents and school officials throughout the Nation have seemingly become preppers themselves.
School officials throughout the Nation have spent the past several days re-evaluating school security measures and asking themselves if lockdown drills conducted in the past sufficiently prepare school officials to deal with the terrifying possibility of an armed intruder on campus.
According to NBC, teachers at many schools throughout the Nation have been asked to answer a four-question safety survey to get a better overview of how safe America’s classrooms are: “Do you have only one entry way to your campus? Can you close your classroom curtains and completely cover your windows? Does your classroom door have an inside locking mechanism? When was the last time you practiced a lockdown drill?”
Some school districts, responding to outcry from local residents, are considering implementing new school safety measure involving local police and community involvement.
In the city of Cullman, Ala., — more than 1,000 miles from where the Connecticut massacre occurred — school Superintendent Jan Harris has spent the days following the tragedy answering phone calls and letters from concerned community members.
“One grandmother told me she would be willing to guard the doors, and she said she knew a lot of others who would be willing to do the same,” Harris told The Cullman Times. “When I thought about the offers from so many people, I came to the realization that perhaps we’ve been missing a great opportunity to involve retired people in our community with some of our needs in the schools.”
That school district, like others throughout the country, has also been working closely with its local police department to beef up patrols in school zones in the wake of the tragedy.
Officials of the Pasco school district in Florida ordered preparedness items before the events that unfolded last Friday. The items have become subject to National attention as talks continue of extended school lockdowns in response to school emergencies. That school district had used Federal grant money to purchase hundreds of emergency portable toilets and sanitation kits to be kept in every classroom. Officials said that the purchase was made due to hurricane lockdowns that could keep students bound in safe areas for hours on end. The harsh realization that an active shooter on campus could create lockdown or hostage situations offers new perspective for those who believed the toilets an unnecessary purchase.
Student services director Lizette Alexander said the purchase has helped the district improve its readiness.
“Try not to make it a joke,” Alexander said to a local newspaper covering the bucket toilets. “When it is needed, it is needed terribly. It is not a joke. It is preparedness.”
Other schools are looking to an option that may have once been considered a definite no-go: allowing teachers to train and arm themselves on school property.
There are a handful of schools throughout the Nation that already allow teachers and administrators to carry firearms to work; lawmakers throughout the country are looking to them to consider the possibility of broadening the policies. Oklahoma, Missouri, Minnesota, South Dakota and Oregon are considering policies in Texas, Arizona and six other States that allow teachers to carry guns to school pending written authorization of the school district.
In Harrold, Texas, where the nearest police department is 30 minutes away from the school and officials say it is financially impossible to hire an armed guard, a policy allowing teachers to be armed has been in place for nearly half a decade without incident.
“We don’t have money for a security guard, but this is a better solution,” Superintendent David Thweatt said. “A shooter could take out a guard or officer with a visible, holstered weapon, but our teachers have master’s degrees, are older and have had extensive training. And their guns are hidden. We can protect our children.”
Many parents throughout the country, shaken by the realization that their children could go to school never to return because of senseless violence, are also examining ways to ensure protection.
Companies that manufacture bulletproof armor for backpacks report an unprecedented uptick in sales over the course of the past week. Salt Lake City-based armor company Amendment II reported that it has more orders for the backpack armor than it is able to fill.
“This armor was designed for soldiers, and parents are ordering it for their kids,” said Richard Craig, president and CEO of Amendment II. “Before Friday, we were selling them to law enforcement and military. That changed in the blink of an eye.”
The backpacks, which retail for $300 apiece, were designed for and primarily sold to police and military prior to last Friday. But some companies that sell the bulletproof backpacks report a sales spike of less than one unit a month to order volume that is crashing websites.
Craig, however, told the Orlando Sentinel that parents purchasing the backpacks should explain to their children what situations they could be needed in and why they are purchasing them. The former Air Force veteran said that he and his business partners do not want to profit off of the terrible tragedy, and are currently trying to decide if they want to be a part of selling the items to parents who want them for child protection.