Wednesday, November 27, 2013

A 2013 Public School Odyssey

Yesterday I went against the grain by trying to do something simple: visit my son at his school during a holiday function. I did so between teaching classes in the morning and attending a meeting in the afternoon. Here's what it looked like: 

10:40 am: finish teaching

11:00 am: finally exit parking lot after waiting for second wave of buses to clear 

11:45 am: arrive at my son's school after being delayed for 15 minutes in traffic 

11:55 am: finally reach my son's classroom after going through security

12:40 pm: depart my son's classroom 

1:10 pm: arrive at my afternoon meeting location - another school in my district

1:22 pm: actually arrive in my work location after walking around a large suburban high school looking for an open door 

The security procedures for entering a public school during the day when one doesn't work or learn there are numbing. You must be buzzed in through a locked door, submit photo ID, sign in, apply a badge with a photograph of you, return the badge . . . it's a lot. 

Our procedures for securing schools have intensified in the wake of a decade and a half of chilling tragedies in school houses. These procedures also represent a response to the danger that someone who has no right to be with a particular child might try to take that child during a school day. Prudent concerns. Are our measures to prevent them excessive? Do these measures reveal an arrogance in our ability to control against every conceivable tragic circumstance? Can we prevent every tragedy. 

I am saddened at the end of the day in which we could more easily allow the community and schools, parents and teachers, to interact. I guess it is necessary. And I understand the mentality behind these measures. One expert I heard from recently pointed out that there has been not a single fatality as the result of fire in a school since 1949, as a result of instituting regular drills for fires. Wouldn't it be good for us to someday say we haven't lost a student since 2012 (or a teacher since 2013) due to violence in the schools? Still, I remained saddened at the tradeoff: safer schools for greater rigidity. Sadness comes, also, from knowing that I can't say safest schools for this tradeoff of rigidity. 

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