Every now and then — and I do mean every now and then — I find great wisdom in the comment of a public official. This happened recently when a county commissioner made a remark for which, I expect, he caught a little heat.
In a conversation regarding funding school resource officers and in the wake of a mass shooting in Orlando, Florida, he said, “You can’t fund your way out of a tragedy.”
I, like many others in this county, state, country and world, have a vested interest in safety at schools. I have a daughter who will be there before I know it.
However, one thing a prior career taught me is that you can do everything right and still have a bad day. No matter how vigilant we are regarding protecting our own, some days the enemy is a little better. Sometimes he’s just lucky too.
As I analyze the use of school resource officers, I’m a little befuddled when it comes to the safety argument. I’ve heard they do much else such as counseling our youngsters and being positive role models. We are focused on safety here though — on preventing a tragedy.
Here’s my problem with folks jumping up and down shouting about safety in our schools. How much of a difference does a school resource officer make in such instances? I don’t have an answer for that. I do know it would seem like the guy or gal dressed in a uniform would be an easily identifiable first target.
I also know one person with a sidearm would stand between a shooter or shooters, who could be armed with just about anything. In the infantry we were taught the first key to winning a firefight was gaining fire superiority. I don’t like these chances.
Of course, I’ve presented a problem. Having a police officer certainly adds a layer of protection for our youngsters. However, it’s not a fail-proof method. I believe it to be a bit more of a feel-good step, so we can all drop our kids off and go about our day without worrying (unless, of course, your kid goes to elementary school).
I’m going to interject this as well. I think it’s a sad state of affairs when we have to concern ourselves with these sorts of matters. It speaks pretty lowly of our species.
Now that I’ve explained our problem, I’m not just done. I don’t think we all ought to drop our kids off and just pray nothing happens. I don’t believe in fairy tales, so I’m a firm believer we hold the future in our hands, alone. With that comes the responsibility to protect our own and to be vigilant in doing so.
Every day we drop our youngsters off at school we are placing a lot of trust in a bunch of adults. We trust they will take care of them, ensuring their basic needs are met. Most importantly, we trust these adults to educate our children — to prepare them for the world which awaits them.
Before they can do that, teachers get background checks and are fingerprinted. I would guess throughout the process somebody is paying attention to their character.
So why not let them protect our children as well.
Right now there are about 10 school resource officers in the county’s high schools and middle schools. They are charged with protecting more than 11,000 students. That’s a ratio of one officer per 1,100 students, and the other flaw in the resource officer plan is our younger children remain unprotected.
There’s no doubt among those teachers are a number of concealed carry permit holders, and there are probably a number of other folks who would be more than willing to go get a permit if a governmental entity foots the bill.
Let’s arm 100 teachers. That just improved the aforementioned ratio to one to 110. It also puts friendly forces in our elementary schools, places neglected in our current security plan.
Rather than one easily identifiable guy, there are a multitude of folks who just blend in ready to stop a tragedy. They are also folks of good character who have passed background checks and staff reviews, or else they would not be in our schools to start with.
I like the idea of five or 10 folks with guns combating an active shooter. It certainly sounds better than one officer or no officers combating that shooter.
That stated, “just like you can’t fund your way out of a tragedy,” you also can’t necessarily plan your way out of one. No plan is fool-proof, and sometimes the bad guy wins.
Of course, there’s the argument the plan brings other security concerns — a rogue teacher or a teacher leaving his or her weapon unattended. No plan is perfect, but those concerns have been discredited in the handful of states already allowing teachers to pack heat in the classroom.
We owe it to our children to do a better job of keeping our schools safe, and maybe we should re-look our strategy for doing that.
Andy is a staff writer and may be reached at 415-4698.