As the horror of the recent events in Connecticut have unfolded I’ve been watching the updates with real emotion. No amount of words can assuage the grief of that community, much less the families who are coping with the unexpected loss of their loved ones. I am praying for them and encourage you all to continue to do the same.
In the wake of this national tragedy the discussions have already begun turning to the 2nd Amendment right to bear arms and whether or not it was the type of weapon that the lunatic used in his crime that created the issue. I believe that the real discussion should be centered on school safety, not on the abridgment of constitutional rights. In Iraq there was a constant assessment and reassessment of the tactics, techniques and procedures employed by the enemy in order to work to stay a step ahead of their attempts to do harm to our troops. There is no difference here on the homefront.
Just this morning I spoke with one of the leaders of local law enforcement , followed by an extended conversation with the principal of one of the schools in my District. Shortly thereafter I contributed comments to a reporter working on a story. All three centered on the “what now?” that always follows a tragedy. My input to each was that the first order of business is to deal with what plans, procedures and defenses our schools have in place.
Is there an available School Resource Officer working the hallways and providing that extra measure of security? Does the faculty have an emergency plan that they’ve rehearsed and know as well as they know their tornado drills? Does the school have a monitored alarm system with panic buttons in the classrooms? Are there known safe places in each school that students and faculty can access? Does every school maintain an updated layout of its facilities on file with the local law enforcement agencies for first responders to refer to? Any or all of these ideas could be developed into a school-by-school contingency plan
These are all reasonable questions which should be given due consideration in a reasonable discussion. It is possible to make our schools, our children, and our teachers safer with a modicum of planning and preparation without ever reaching a reactionary curtailing of our constitutional freedoms. This is the conversation that I intend to carry with me to Montgomery. In the coming legislative session I want to explore our educational plans for safe schools and enlist the support of other legislators to do what we can to support our local schools to implement effective measures to increase the level of physical and emotional security that our precious kids deserve.
Phil Williams, API Director of Policy Strategy, was a State Senator from Gadsden from 2010-2018. Follow him on Twitter at @SenPhilWilliams.