Commentary: It is time to adopt ‘enhanced school security plan’

It is quite distressing when we as honest, ethical and moral people cannot set aside our political differences and protect the most important segment of our society and our culture — our very future, our children.

We accept the need to “inconvenience” every person wishing to purchase a firearm, fly on a plane or attend a concert or any major league sporting event, all in the name of security. Yet, we are unable to set aside our own sense of “innocence” when it comes to protecting our children, allowing our schools to remain “soft targets” in so-called “Gun-free zones” which literally means no “good guys with firearms;” only “bad guys with firearms” are free to roam at will, unchecked by even the most basic of security systems.

Following Sandy Hook, I prepared an initial draft of a plan to protect our children. Unfortunately the state legislators were bent on going down the path of more firearms restrictions just to show they were “doing something” and my plan gained no traction; as a result, our children are not one iota safer today than they were the day before Sandy Hook.

After seeing the Fox News feature on an Ohio school system whose plan included the key elements of this plan, and I took that as encouragement to “dust off this plan,” editing for brevity only.

Enhanced School Security Plan

Purpose

To establish an enhanced security security plan that will be generally accepted by the school community, and which demonstrates the characteristics that the collaborators believe will produce the desired results, utilizing modern technical enhancements, as well as a time-tested security procedures to provide heightened security for a school system; a plan which can then be replicated for school systems throughout the state and across the country where the local school communities desire such a plan, and to be done with a reasonable budget, competitive with alternative inferior plans.

Objective

The Enhanced Security Plan will:

A . Provide a meaning-full deterrent to any individual or group intent upon causing harm to the students teachers and staff.

  1.  Provide a demonstrable force for providing security to the inhabitants of the school in the case of need, from small disturbances from outside sources, to the extreme life-threatening events.
  2.  Provide for the immediate notification of the relevant first responders through modern communications systems with multiple safeguards against tampering.
  3. Create an environment of confidence for the school community from the staff, students, parents and the community at large.

The Elements

The on-premise security team will be made up of a predetermined number of volunteers, dependent on the size of the building, and the population, as well as other factors.

  1. Selection — Volunteers will be sought to make up the pool from which the security team shall be selected. Each would go through a background check more rigorous then the standard check normally performed for school/employees-teachers, including meeting  certain criteria concerning their background and ability to meet the challenge that the team is expected to be able to respond to. Once the volunteers pass this initial background check they would move to the next step.
  2. The security coordinator (most probably a member of the “security firm” hired for the project), will interview the volunteers, with an eye out for certain characteristics and experience and identify any such characteristics which may best serve the team. The final selection would then be given to the superintendent or to his specified representative for a final vetting.
  3. The selected members of the security team will go thru a training course designed by the “security firm.” This training will include how to determine and respond to different levels of security emergencies from calming a person, to detaining an individual for law enforcement, to the more extreme determination when a lockdown or evacuation plan is appropriate. The training will also include the proper and safe use of a firearm.

The security firm will have multiple roles.

  1. They will play a role in the selection of qualified volunteers to make up the on premise security team.
  2. They will be responsible for the training of the Team as described above, including an annual refresher course and training of new members when required.
  3. They will prepare the full enhanced security plan manual and insure proper coordination and communication of the plan. They will also be participate with the school administration in community outreach/education.
  4. The security firm will be responsible for design, preparing, installing and maintaining all the technological elements of the ESP.

The technology is a key element to a successful plan. It is expected to be made up of the following components, along with any additions deemed appropriate.

  1. Door/hallway security monitors. These can be high tech “intelligent” monitoring systems which have the capability of identifying possible issues and communicating directly to Administration and law enforcement as well as specified members of the security team.
  2. Individual room alarms, are a basic low-tech alarm which can be pulled by a teacher or caregiver to raise the alarm. There are also a number of other high-tech tools in the security firm’s arsenal which may prove beneficial or desirable for any specific school system. Each of these can be examined by the firm and the school as part of the planning of the ESP.
  3. For the ESP to be successful there must also be the element of lethal force. Access to lethal force serves two very real purposes under this plan, one on each side of the security spectrum. First the knowledge by a potential perpetrator that lethal force exists on the premises serves as a major deterrent. The fact is, in the most horrific real life examples we note that  the perpetrator invariably goes to where he has the sense there is no lethal force that can keep him from his intentions. As soon as lethal force shows up, these individuals often turn their weapon on themselves or give up immediately. As stated, this deterrent aspect is critical to the success of the ESP and can only be accomplished with the full knowledge that deadly force exists on the premise.  It is obvious to all of that the best way to deal with the worst of the worst cases is not to have it happen in the first place. However, on the other side of the spectrum, in the most extreme of cases, where mere presence is insufficient, access to lethal force will be necessary.

The discussion of lethal force is a sensitive of issue and to be taken seriously it must be discussed between reasonable people without the emotions of the day and a true sense for what will work and what will not work when discussing how to provide meaningful security to our children in our schools.

To do this we have come up with a concept that we believe meets the goals desired, while meeting the “community acceptance” test.

The enhanced security plan, includes the presence of a firearm. This firearm will be maintained in a specified area, in a high-tech lock box designed by the security firm. This box will have certain characteristics. It will have a security lock which can only be opened upon the finger print code of one of the security team. When the box is unlocked, several thing happen. Law enforcement is immediately notified that the “box is open” along with the identity of the person who opened it via the fingerprint ID. An alarm and/or announcement goes off in the school alerting all teachers and staff that the box is open and the teachers immediately go in to the security plan that they were familiarized with.

The perpetrator is suddenly met with announcements and alarms and  it may be enough to discourage him immediately, or at very least distract him long enough that the individual who has recovered the weapon from the box may be able to bring it in to play and perhaps end it before the perpetrator is able to achieve his worst goals.

We all understand that the availability of lethal force in our schools is difficult for everyone to be comfortable with. There are a great number of precautions which can be taken as outlined above; however, to be effective in the worst case scenario the lethal force has to be brought to bear as quickly as possible. We need to start from the premise that we have a solid security team,  with good training and we have a good communication plan. There may be other aspects to be considered and its likely from district to district there may be workable many variations to this basic outline of the enhanced security plan.

Let me leave you with some final thoughts. First, school staffs are made up of individuals from many backgrounds similar to any population of adults. There are individuals with military, or law enforcement training, as well as gun owners who have experience in the safe handling of firearms. The one aspect of this plan I am most certain of is there will be no shortage of volunteers.

Second, when the chips are down, people do what they have to do, not just to protect themselves but to protect others; nothing is clearer than this. The principal of Sandy Hook Elementary reportedly was a prime example of this heroism when she ran out, and accosted the gunman with the only weapon she had, her body. She did not hesitate to do what she could to try to stop him. I can only imagine if she had come out of that office with a firearm in her hand.

This horrific event has brought out the best in people seeking to lend support. It also brought out the fear in people. It gave momentum to teachers and caregivers willing to violate the law, to be prepared and refuse to be victims. The result is that there are far more guns in the schools across the country today than there were before Sandy Hook. The reasonable expectation of our plan, if handled well, by committed professionals, is it will give the real sense of security that we all crave. Teachers and other staff will not feel the need to provide their own security once they understand the administration is prepared to take security seriously and give them a comprehensive plan for real protection for the security of the students and the staff.

Jim Weinberg is a Monroe resident.

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