As our country scratches and claws for answers to protect our children in schools, I have offered a five-point plan to help minimize armed threats. The Anne Arundel County Police Department and our public school system have done an outstanding job with the minimal resources at their disposal, but more needs to be done and the time is now!
What’s my dog in this fight? As a grandparent with a granddaughter in school, a parent with two stepchildren in school, and as a 38-year law enforcement vet, I support this plan. This plan is radical, costly, and some even say “out of my wheelhouse.” I say, “I disagree.” This plan comes from someone who is not afraid to think outside the box. This plan comes from someone who has spent his entire adult life keeping this county safe. This plan comes from someone who makes a living keeping our circuit court building and all in it safe. And lastly, this comes from a former narcotics detective who many, many years ago worked at two Anne Arundel County public schools posing as a high school student.
I present this plan knowing the massive cost associated with most of these steps, so I suggest baby steps as we search for funding from our federal and state governments, and from wealthy private corporations and people.
Step I: Equip all schools with metal detectors and X-ray machines, staffed with a minimum of one armed security person along with retired police and veterans. Knowing this will delay the start of each school day, extending the day briefly should be considered. The school system has said it would be dangerous to have a large group of children in line at a predetermined time each day, and I wholeheartedly disagree. An armed school resource officer (SRO) would be present and visible with the children outside. The inconvenience of time should not supersede our children’s safety. As we await funding, visual bag searches and hand wands should be used like children have experienced many times at Oriole Park at Camden Yards, M&T Bank Stadium, Disney World or Kings Dominion.
Step II: Staff every school with well-trained, well-equipped SROs. This could be done gradually by adding to the current complement of SROs on a gradual basis, with a long-term plan and goal in mind to have each school staffed. A huge Second Amendment supporter, I believe that engaging in a gunfight in a densely populated school is not the job for an overworked and underpaid teacher, coach, counselor or administrator. It is the job for a well-trained, fully equipped law enforcement officer.
Step III: An inexpensive step is live-streaming the existing video systems to the patrol officers and supervisors working the immediate area near a school. This will aid responding police with real-time information to assist in tactical planning, suspect information, weapon intelligence, etc.
Step IV: Equip each classroom with a bulletproof door or bulletproof glass that is electronically controlled. In the interim, there is a less costly product on the market, designed by a deputy sheriff, that can easily be placed under the door to secure it. However, as demonstrated by the Virginia Tech shooting, people can still be shot through wooden doors and glass windows.
Step V: Anne Arundel County police have proactively trained for an active shooter in our county schools, as my deputy sheriffs have done in the circuit court building. This training should continue and include drills involving students, educators and maintenance personnel.
When the tragic 9/11 attacks occurred and nearly 3,000 lives were lost, our world changed forever. In the aftermath, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) was formed, creating thousands of jobs. Then, seemingly overnight, every airport in the United States had an X-ray machine and metal detectors. The federal government found the funding and it was a major change to the way we traveled. It’s time to make this major change to protect or most precious assets, our children and our teachers.