At a suburban elementary school near me, which may be similar to a suburban elementary school near you, visitors can walk right from the parking lot to the doors of the classrooms, which are not only usually unlocked, but are often propped open on nice days. It's very convenient, friendly, and dangerous.
Visitors to the classrooms are not required to check in or even go through the office, which is located in its own "administration" building, separate from the classrooms. The extensive playgrounds at this school are separated from the surrounding public streets by a 4-foot high, chain-link fence.
The only full-time "security" at this school consists of signs in the parking lot that optimistically state, "This Campus is a Drug and Gun-Free Zone."
Hopefully, security at this, and all elementary schools will be much tighter this morning.
After the monstrous shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, our national "dialog" on gun control legislation is sure to continue. But as we have seen time and time again, political solutions to social problems, while well intended and often helpful, rarely solve the underlying problem. Despite the Gun Control Act of 1968 and the Brady Act, people still murder. Despite the Civil Rights Act of 1964, people still hate.
Whatever mental illness that drove Adam Lanza to murder 26 people, including 20 children, cannot be legislated away.
Stronger gun control laws might help -- eventually. Laws authorizing teachers to carry guns might help -- eventually. Laws facilitating access to mental health care might help -- eventually. But no law is going to "fix it."
And when it comes to eventually enacting laws, remember that the House of Representatives has already announced it will spend only 126 days actually in session conducting business next year.
The fastest and perhaps most effective way you can help prevent school violence now is to demand improved security at your local elementary schools.
In the days leading up to the December 14 shootings, the Sandy Hook Elementary School posted a "Security Letter To Parents" on its web site. "Our district will be implementing a security system in all elementary schools as part of our ongoing efforts to ensure student safety," the letter began. "Visitors will still be required to report directly to the office and sign in. If our office staff does not recognize you, you will be required to show identification with a picture id." How many of these security measures were in effect and followed on December 14 remains under investigation.
No, nobody wants to see our schools turned into virtual prison camps, with armed guards patrolling the halls and playgrounds, but come on, at least lock the doors.