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Ask the Right Questions to Make Schools Safe

September 5, 2018

I watched a news report that was talking about school safety. Was this story to inform, or were there other purposes? Violence frightens us, so the news audience was less likely to turn to another station. Judge motives for yourself as you read on.

The news report began with carefully crafted misinformation. The reporter quoted someone else’s inflated claims about the number of violent attacks on our schools. Using someone else’s claim relieves the reporter from having to actually know the facts. They simply reported the claims of other people when those claims fit the story the reporter wants to tell. The answers are political rather than factual..and the misinformation stands as truth.

The reporter talked to a state senator who wants to allow school boards and school superintendents to protect students the way they think best. That might be with counselors, or door locks, with School Resource Officers in police uniforms, or with armed school staff.

The reporter talked to a union representative who saids teachers shouldn’t be armed, and it isn’t a teachers job to protect their students. The reporter interviewed a superintendent of schools from an urban school district. ‘We will have School Resource Officers, but we won’t arm teachers.’

The reporter doesn’t ask the relevant follow up questions. Did she even know which questions to ask?

  • Will School Resource Officers be armed? Many are not.
  • Have unarmed School Resource Officers stopped attacks in schools? Some have. Some tried. Some failed.
  • Will School Resource Officers be on campus every day when students or staff are on campus? Usually not.
  • Will School Resource Officers be in every building? What about the sports fields, the library and the cafeteria? I’m sorry, but no.
  • Will there be enough School Resource Officers to treat the injured after an attack and before EMTs arrive?
  • Do the schools have a regular safety audit to see if they actually perform as it says in their safety plan?
  • Will School Resource Officers be on campus when the choir practices before school? Will they be there when the drama class rehearses and the sports teams compete after school and on the weekends? No, but we do the best we can with the funds we have.

That isn’t true, but we never heard the rest of the story.

Yes, we should have SROs on campus, but that isn’t enough. We can have dozens of trained school staff for the cost of a single School Resource Officer. The report didn’t tell us that.

The union representatives said that teachers shouldn’t be armed. The reporter didn’t tell us that about 18 percent of teachers would be willing to carry a gun to protect their students if their district approved it. That makes teachers about twice as willing to carry a gun as the average rate of concealed carry.  I’m guessing that the reporter never researched the subject to put those facts into context, though the teachers’ protective attitude towards their students wouldn’t surprise you if you’ve talked with many teachers. You didn’t hear the relevant facts because the reporter didn’t ask the relevant questions.

A good reporter does more than collect compelling and competing quotes. They should learn the subject well enough to know the questions to ask. In this case they didn’t. Too often, they don’t.

Until they do, you will have to be the one who asks the right questions to protect your kids in school.

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