The recent tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, CT has given great pause to many parents of school age children around the nation. Events like this, that have happened far too often this year, remind everyone that life is fragile and irreplaceable. There is no dollar amount that any one parent can place on the value of their child.
An examination of the security protocols within the schools has been conducted following the shootings in CT, according to my conversations with local law enforcement officials. This is a very important step in securing our schools and ensuring the safety of everyone who finds themselves in a GPPSS school over the course of an academic year. However, much of the security procedures in place at our high schools, as well as our middle and elementary schools are mostly smoke and mirrors, or the illusion of security.
Governor Snyder recently vetoed legislation that would have allowed CCW holders with extra training the ability to carry their firearms in schools and other previously gun-free zones. Many can speculate as to the reasons of his veto, but an educated guess would be to say that it would have been political powder keg following the tragedy in CT, should there be any ill effects from this law. As a district, and as a society, we must come to the reality that just because a venue has been deemed a “gun-free zone” by the state, is not a deterrent for criminals or the mentally ill. Such zones are only deterrents for law abiding citizens who wish to not risk an arrest on a felony firearms possession charge.
Arming teachers, is not necessarily the solution to the potential problem of extreme gun violence in the schools. Should students be in the hallway when a killer begins his rampage, students will be running in all directions to avoid the individual. The last thing anyone wants in that situation is a teacher who lacks the confidence to fire at a target through a swarm of moving students. Our existing security guards would merely act as organic body armor for the students, and their ability to mitigate the situation is drastically reduced compared to an individual with a firearm.
It is time to wake up, and put armed security personnel in our schools, all of our schools. Do not take this out of context, and suggest that I want the Michigan National Guard, or even uniformed armed security. This team of armed security personnel should be a team of off-duty or retired police officers, and former members of the military who have the training, stress inoculation, and tactical awareness to safely protect our schools. Additionally, the security personnel should hail from the Pointe’s, or at least have spent time as a police officer with one of our public safety departments. This aspect of the plan is crucial, to ensure the proper mindset and service oriented interactions the security personnel will have with parents and students.
I am calling on the Board of Education to establish a position of “Director of Security” within the school system. This Director of Security should be hired as a contract employee, with input from local law enforcement officials who know what qualifications the individual should have, and have a list of potential candidates for the position. From here the Director of Security will be given a budget, with which to hire the necessary number of security personnel and conduct training. All security personnel will be contract employees, and use their own firearms.
This is a necessary step to ensure the safety of the individuals inside the buildings of the District, in this new era of gun violence that has recently erupted.
- Public Opinion
- Initially the opinion from parents and the community may be one of fear, many might think “Is there a serious problem with gun violence in our district?” The answer to that is, there is a serious problem with gun violence in this country, and the threat of such violence in Grosse Pointe is no less serious than the threat of such violence in schools all across America.
- Conducting a community-wide survey may be useful to determine how popular such an idea is with the community.
- One major question should be asked of those with a dissenting opinion of this idea: “If you asked the parents of Sandy Hook Elementary, if they would have been comfortable with this program being in place a week before the shooting, knowing what they know now, what would their answer be?” It is my assumption that many in that community would say they would be more than comfortable having armed, off duty or retired police officers, or former members of the military, protecting that school.
- The community of Grosse Pointe is averse to change, which isn’t always a bad thing, except in this case. When the millimeter wave scanners were implemented by the TSA in 2011, the American people were in uproar over the program, and many still are. As time has passed, almost two years later, the full body scanners are a routine site at the airport and have become accepted by most travelers as a necessary precaution. Until the program is implemented, the community will not know exactly how this will change their day to day interactions with others at the schools.
- Budget Considerations
- The biggest limitation on a project like this is money. It would be great to have a team of security personnel who volunteer their time, however the adage “you get what you pay for” likely holds true in this situation.
- Competitive rates for off duty or retired police officers are about $20-25/hr.
- For one guard, at $22.50/hr working 9 hours (7AM - 4PM) the annual cost will be roughly $37,000.
- To place one guard at each elementary school, and two security personnel at each middle and high school, will cost roughly $750,000/year. Add $150,000 for salary of Director of Security, building upgrades, and training, the program will cost about $900,000/year.
- The final cost of the program will be a likely increase in liability insurance, which I am unable to estimate.
- Initial funding would come from the GPPSS budget, as well as a potential grant from the GP Education Foundation, until a millage can be passed to cover the cost of this program.
- Assuming the necessary adjustments are made to the budget, the next step is to utilize the 6 Public Safety departments, and potentially the expertise of the Detroit Crime Commission, to create a profile of the ideal candidate for the position of Director of Security.
- Upon hiring a Director of Security, he/she will be given a budget to implement security measures as they see fit, chiefly adding armed security to the schools. It should be noted that private contractors and private security firms should be highly scrutinized because the goal is to hire properly qualified and vetted individuals.
- The Director of Security would then give a presentation to the community detailing the changes.
- By definition this program is to hire armed personnel to protect the schools, however, Board oversight would be necessary to ensure the Director of Security was not implementing programs that add an unnecessary distraction to the school day, i.e. metal detectors.
- The security personnel would be required to wear clothing that is no different from clothing worn by teachers or administrators. This is to ensure that this layer of security is invisible to the casual observer.
- All security personnel will ideally be individuals who have worked in the Grosse Pointes or Harper Woods and understand the culture of the community. This will ensure that interactions with parents, students, and members of the community are familiar to all parties.
- Public Opinion
- Approval of Budget
- Budget approval takes place in June.
- Millage Vote
- Potential Dates
- February 26, 2013
- May 7, 2013
- August 6, 2013
- November 5, 2013
- Potential Dates
- The position of Director of Security should be filled in a time that allows for a start date of July 8, 2013.
- All other security personnel would be hired prior to Friday August 16, 2013
- Approval of Budget
- Local Ordinances
- There do not appear to be any ordinances in the communities within the GPPSS boundaries that would negatively affect this program.
- State Laws
- There does not appear to be any laws preventing such a program, however listed below are Acts that may pertain to the program
- Michigan Retired Law Enforcement Officer’s Firearm Carry Act (Act 537 of 2008)
- Act 319 of 1990
Unfortunately, over the past year, there has been a drastic increase in the number of mass shootings in the United States. Many may say, the answer to gun violence in schools is not to create more “gun-free” zones and increase the severity of punishment for anyone found to be carrying a firearm in that zone. There is another faction of our society who will say you must fight fire with fire, and arm every adult in the school. Regardless of where members of our community fall on this spectrum of beliefs, there are two common beliefs everyone can agree with. A sign saying “Gun Free Zone” does not stop bullets from killing students, and an individual with a firearm lacking tactical skills, stress inoculation, and enhanced training is equally ineffective.
The current security programs in our schools are largely illusions. Having spent countless days at Grosse Pointe North, the ease with which students can move about the school uninhibited is one piece of evidence to show that the security measures are illusionary. The shooting in Newtown, CT was committed by an outsider. 4 of 5 school shootings between March 26, 2011 and December 14, 2012 were committed by current students. These current students know the layout of the school, and should the individual choose to plan their attack ahead of time the individual would likely have sufficient observational knowledge of security protocols. According to the Safe School Initiative Final Report produced by the United States Secret Service, 93% of the attacks studied were planned in advance, with 69% having developed a plan at least two days prior. Our schools need armed protection from the inside.
The program detailed in this proposal is fair, non-intrusive, and affordable. It is difficult to consider this proposal an act of fear mongering, or an attempt to introduce unnecessary security measures, given the pliant news media’s choice to cover the gun control and school safety debate every day in their 24 hour news cycle. Having spoken with numerous law enforcement officials regarding this proposal, many of the ideas that appear in this proposal have been developed as a result of these conversations.
- Additional References
U.S. Department of the Treasury. Secret Service. The Final Report and Findings of The Safe School Initiative: Implications for the Prevention of School Attacks in the United States. By Bryan Vossekuil Washington DC, May 2002
Kopel, David B.. "Pretend "Gun-Free" School Zones: A Deadly Legal Fiction." Connecticut Law Review December, no. (2009): 1-70.