For those who think transforming our nation’s schools into “hard targets” will deter mass shootings, last week’s massacre at a Texas high school near Houston offers some disturbing proof to the contrary.
Santa Fe High School, located in the city of the same name, had not one but two armed police officers stationed at the school. It had a safety plan to deal with active shooters attacking the school and that plan had won a statewide award.
School officials felt even more confident that they were prepared after the school went into lockdown in February for what turned out to be a false alarm that a shooter was on school grounds. The huge police and emergency services response to that incident made school officials feel that they could handle the real thing.
Dimitrios Pagourtzis, a 17-year-old Santa Fe High School student, provided the real test when he attacked his school on Friday morning. He was armed with a revolver and shotgun. Thirty minutes later, Pagourtzis was under arrest after killing 10 people at the school and wounding 10 others, including one of the armed police officers who patrolled the school’s halls.
Some will point to the fact that the school’s teachers were not armed as the reason why Pagourtzis wasn’t stopped before he shot so many. Actually, Santa Fe High School had gotten school board approval to arm some of its teachers and school staff members but the program had not yet started.
Here in East Idaho, where the vast majority of our schools keep their doors unlocked during the day and have no armed police let alone armed teachers, it’s very easy to be scared about what the future holds.
Many are now saying that recent school shootings prove that transforming our schools into fortified hard targets with armed police and other measures will not deter unstable armed individuals from attacking those schools.
That’s true, but when confronted with the increasing number of school shootings happening across our nation, what else can we do?
While we ponder the big question of why these shootings are occurring, increasing security at our schools here in East Idaho has to be a top priority for every community in the region.
Earlier this month Pocatello-Chubbuck School District 25 announced a pilot program in which three of its elementary schools would lock all doors during the day and the only way a person can gain entry to any of the schools from the outside is if they call the school’s office to ask permission to enter. A member of each school’s staff will then assist the visitor, who must present a valid ID. The school staff member will make the determination of whether the visitor should be granted access.
Some of you might have been under the impression that East Idaho’s schools already had all exterior doors locked during school hours but this is not the case.
We would implore School District 25 to expand this pilot program to all of its schools and for other East Idaho school districts to follow suit because locking all exterior doors is simply common sense to defend against a variety of threats.
Against a heavily armed, unstable individual bent on killing, locked school doors essentially will give those inside the school a little bit of extra time to respond.
And if one of those adults inside each East Idaho school is an armed police officer, there’s a good chance the shooter will be stopped. At very least, the casualties will be fewer.
But sadly, as evidenced by school shootings like what happened in Santa Fe, Texas, there are no guarantees.
In the wake of the Santa Fe shooting, Texas officials are talking about limiting the number of entrances at each of that state’s schools and making those entrances much more secure. Schools with metal detectors at their entrances are nothing new for America’s big cities, but Texas officials are thinking such measures should be standard in their state.
East Idaho would be wise to take a good, hard look at its schools because we feel that in most cases, shooters could gain easy access to the buildings and not have to contend with armed police until after someone calls 911.
East Idaho’s law enforcement officials say that when it comes to mass shootings, it’s a question of when not if such incidents are going to happen here.
So far in 2018 there has been about one school shooting per week in the U.S. Some of those incidents were very minor but others like what happened at Santa Fe High School and at a high school in Parkland, Florida, resulted in numerous deaths.
Many of us are stuck on trying to answer the question of why these shootings are happening with the belief that once we figure out that riddle we can perhaps truly address this horrific phenomena.
While we ponder the role that guns, mental illness, broken families, bullying and violent video games, TV shows and movies play in these tragedies, it’s equally important to make sure our schools here in East Idaho are as fortified as possible.
Yes, it’s not going to deter them from becoming targets. We wish it would.
But locked doors, armed police and training on how to handle active shooter incidents will go a long way toward decreasing the carnage when evil strikes.
And like our law enforcement officials say, it’s a matter of when not if.