You and I both could literally name hundreds of security products ranging in price and objectives solved that schools are deploying to make their campus safer. It seems there is no balance, though, when it comes to every school in American having access to the same types of security products, which is a bit disheartening. The following illustrates the end of both spectrums: one where money is no object and one where apparently money is a huge issue.
When students, faculty, staff and visitors walk into DuBois Area High School, they can expect the same security scene as any U.S. airport. Metal detectors line the entrance way, acting as a barrier to entry, searching for weapons such as guns, knives or sharp instruments. The good news at the school, however, is the wait time – the process takes less than 30 minutes for over 1,000 students to pass through with enough time to arrive at first period class without being tardy. (Wish I could say the same for airports. I wonder how many missed flights are due to long waits in the security line?)
The five detectors are manned by staff and school police officers with the goal of ruling out any possible weapons to keep students, staff and visitors safe.
Janice Bart, officer in charge, said that she could think of no better way of using the funds considering the age of the high school building. She also noted that the school’s security plan includes:
- Safety screeners;
- Investment of time;
- A proper plan based on the uniqueness of the campus; and
- Hard work.
The story at Tupelo Public School District is quite different. The school board recently voted to authorize the 18 school security officers to carry pepper spray during the upcoming school year. These officers are state-certified employees stationed at various campuses throughout the district. (Deploying a chemical agent versus a metal detector? Wow! It’s easy to see the huge difference in school security budgets just by analyzing the “technology” that a campus uses.)
This district requested that the Mississippi Department of Education’s Division of Safe and Orderly Schools conduct a safety and facilities assessment to identify areas of improvement. One of the recommendations was allowing security officers to carry pepper spray, which gives them another resource to use to maintain orderly conduct and safety, especially when there are large crowds, at athletic events, for example. And, because the school district is holding the officers accountable, the proper resources must be made available to do their job.
The officers will carry small canisters of pepper spray and all have attended training that includes each one getting sprayed to fully understand the chemical’s effect. This will encourage the officers to only use it when absolutely necessary.
The top priority is safety for students, faculty and staff.
Both schools have the exact same goal: safety for all; however, what is not equal is the budgets to achieve this goal. Will each school in America ever have equality when it comes to security budgets? After all, we owe it to our children to give them all an equally safe education.