Last week North Dakota’s Superintendent of Public Instruction Kirsten Baesler and other leaders in education met to discuss the hot button topic of school safety. The purpose of the meeting was to “find common ground on a school safety agenda for the 2019 Legislature”. Unfortunately, the results aren’t altogether encouraging.
According to the article from DPI, Baesler says their top priorities are:
“… school training for identifying potential safety threats, what to do with the information, and making sure there is adequate follow-up; making safety improvements to school buildings; greater access to school resource officers, who are law enforcement personnel assigned to schools; and expanding the availability of behavioral health specialists.”
Baesler has also expressed her support for the idea of stationing North Dakota Highway Patrol troopers at some schools.
While I have no problem with these topics being part of the discussion – in fact, I encourage it – Baesler and the others seem to be shunning the idea of arming teachers. Meeting attendee, Chad Oban – who is Executive Director of North Dakota United – expressed it in these words:
“We just don’t believe that arming teachers is the best approach. We think there are other, better ways to keep our kids safe.”
And that is where they’re wrong. While they are pretending to support a “comprehensive” approach to school safety, it’s not really a comprehensive approach at all. How can it be when they’re rejecting the idea of a last line of defense for students?
In the aftermath of the recent school shooting in Florida, we published an article expressing the view that this tragedy was yet another example of why we need guns in school. In that article, I pointed out that for students at the school in Parkland, Florida they were sitting ducks. You can even watch video of students hunkered down with gunshots in the background here.
After the horrific school shooting in San Bernardino, California last year, we published an article in which I said:
“While upgrades to school security systems, counseling for mental illness, and training of staff and administration in recognizing warning signs in potentially high risk individuals is valuable; it all misses the point. What is the point? Once a shooter gains access to a school, NONE of those things matter. At that moment, everyone – especially students – are little more than sitting ducks.
“In a situation where teachers and students are locked in their rooms… they are to sit and await their doom– should the shooter get through the door. Compare this to a classroom where a teacher could have access to a gun and at least stands a fighting chance in defending their students as the perpetrator comes through the door. Seems like common sense to me. I know which situation I would prefer.”
And this is what Baesler and the others are missing– the last line of defense.
Now, I’m not suggesting that we force any teachers or other school staff to be armed. What I’m suggesting is that the state should get out of the way and allow school districts to set policy that works best for them– up to and including teachers having access to a gun. There’s simply not enough Highway Patrol to station in every school. Local police can’t be everywhere. In most instances, they can’t arrive soon enough to prevent or stop a tragedy.
Baesler can meet as much as she wants with whomever she wants. They can talk a good line about school safety until they’re blue in the face. But so long as there’s no option for a last line of defense to protect students from impending harm, then they don’t have a comprehensive approach.
Take a few minutes to listen to the perspective of Florida Sheriff Grady Judd on the topic: