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SALT LAKE CITY -- Schools and educators are struggling to meet two seemingly competing mandates. The first, create an open welcoming educational environment and encourage parents to engage with their child’s education by visiting and volunteering in their local school. And it is working, a poll by Harris Interactive notes that 53 percent of parents plan to volunteer in their child's school. The increased number of visitors to schools impacts the second mandate. That mandate, a part of the No Child Left Behind legislation, is to create a safe and secure educational environment. To accomplish this schools must be aware at all times who is on the campus and for what purpose.
There was a time when mom would bring a bunch of home-made cupcakes to her child’s class. She would park close to the building, next to a side door. She would run in, down the hall and drop of the treat, run back up the hall, out the door and only the teacher in the classroom would know. Convenient? Yes. Secure? Not so much.
Convenience and security are often polar opposites, the more convenient a school or classroom is the less secure it will be.
Convenience and security are often polar opposites, the more convenient a school or classroom is the less secure it will be. A single open side door at Platte Canyon High School in Bailey, Colo. on Sept. 27, 2006, lead to a hostage taking and the death of 16-year-old Emily Keyes. The response by many schools and recommended by Bureau of Justice Assistance, was a dramatic increase in physical security.
The response included among other things the implementation of single point entry. This is the process of forcing all visitors to a school to use one door, generally a monitored entrance near the school’s office. This is followed by a check in, identity verification and issuance of a visitor’s pass. In some cases a computerized background check could be a part of the process, as well. Chances are that you have experienced something similar when visiting your child’s school. And you may have even commented that the process seemed excessive.
The threat environment for schools has changed, however, but for many parents the mindset has not. It can’t happen here is the prevailing attitude in many communities. While many parents complain we are turning our schools into prisons, I suggest it is a matter of perspective. Prisons and castles look much the same yet they serve very different purposes. One keeps threats to our children in, the other keeps the threats to our children out.
While many parents complain we are turning our schools into prisons, I suggest it is a matter of perspective. Prisons and castles look much the same yet they serve very different purposes.
As educators struggle to meet the competing mandates for schools, they need your help. They need you to volunteer in the schools. They need you to visit your child’s classroom. They need your child to see you at their school. And yes sometimes they need cupcakes. Equally, they need to assure the safety of your child and all the others that come to school each day.
So, the next time you visit your school and are required to go through the whole process just to deliver a forgotten lunch, remember to take a deep breath and think castles, not prisons
Guy Bliesner is a longtime educator, having taught and coached tennis and swimming. He is school safety and security administrator for the Bonneville School District in Idaho Falls, Idaho. He has been married for 26 years and has three children.