Dear Fellow Democrats and Friends,
Bob Toliver has given me permission to share my opinions with you from time to time. This is one of the opinions I have recently shared with a few others:
I’m writing about what we can do immediately to help protect the schools and those who work and learn in them. We are all familiar with fire drills and the requirements that they be practiced on a regular basis. They did not come about just because people thought they were a good idea. They were a reaction to a number of school fires across the country in which lives were lost. People finally realized that there were three areas that could be improved for the safety of the children. First was an improvement in the building codes for schools; second was a procedure for evacuating a building as quickly as possible, third was putting out the fire and assisting any victims. Change did not come fast, but it did come! Most schools now evacuate hundreds of students in well under five minutes in such an orderly manner that we can tell who is missing and where that person might be. Fire departments arrive almost instantly and are ready to go to work before the last child is out of the building. Professional firefighters are then in charge of dealing with the fire, finding anyone missing, handling first aid and calling for additional resources when necessary. The system works because professional educators deal with school matters and organization, while professional firefighters deal with their area of expertise. We can apply the lesson of school fires to school violence! While the requirements are not the same, they are parallel. Schools face major issues: shooters (mentally ill and/or very angry), building access, deadly weapons to name a few. If schools had a violence alarm that went directly to an identified police precinct, a patrol car could be dispatched immediately while the precinct team could ascertain what other support is required. Instead of a fire alarm, a hotline from school to precinct could be established.
It would be best if a school/precinct liaison team could be created so that the same officers would have a role with the school community that would make them familiar with people in the school and neighborhood. Some communities have such personnel employed currently. In addition to fire drills, schools should be required to have safety drills. It is obvious that planning and training requirements must be established; but actions can and must be taken immediately. School, police and fire officials must plan appropriate requirements for school access and exit. Locked and chained doors that keep the bad guys out, also keep children and staff trapped in case of a fire. Plans are required for different age groups and school organizations Access to assault and automatic weapons must be controlled or eliminated! But the politics of gun control may take months or years. Only our politicians can do that, but citizens can organize to make it happen. What price would be appropriate to improve the safety of children, how should it be paid and who should pay for it? I propose that a licensing fee or other tax be added to firearms and ammunition to help pay for the additional expenses to schools and police departments. Of course, this document is only an outline of a plan; but I believe that it is worthy of your consideration.