OPINION | Barry Richard: Don’t Ease Up on School Safety Demands
Safety must be the top priority of all school officials in this age of mass shootings. Granted, school shootings are relatively rare and more students die each year from drug overdoses and car crashes than from shootings at their schools. But, we can't lose sight of the fact that schools with loose security can also fall prey to drug dealers and others who would commit violent acts and vandalism.
A recent meeting of the Somerset K-8 School Committee is clear evidence that society has been lulled into a false sense of security by school officials who insist all that can be done to make the schools safe has been done. The reality is that it has not.
Parent Jessica Machado tells me she and other parents were "shocked" to learn just how unsafe conditions are at some of the town's schools. Machado says:
"Parents, volunteers and teachers shared stories of unsecured doors, point of entry concerns, 20-year-old emergency manuals and more. Perhaps more shocking than the testimonials of these people was the response of School Committee Chairman Victor Machado who, when asked what the School Committee’s plan was, responded, “I have no plan.”
Machado and others are insisting that local school districts begin to address societal changes by revisiting school security plans and updating them to meet today's unique threats. Those plans must include armed security where it does not already exist. At minimum schools should be protected by armed security guards. When providing armed security to schools is not feasible than serious consideration must be given to arming teachers.
Parents must continue to demand better security for students and the teachers and other adults to whom we trust with our children's wellbeing for up to eight hours per day. Most importantly parents need to remain engaged in the discussion about school safety even after the shock of school shooting wears off.
Editor's Note: Barry Richard is the afternoon host on 1420 WBSM New Bedford. He can be heard weekdays from Noon-3pm. The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author.