BOB RINEARSON: School security is challenging, no matter the precautions

Bob Rinearson

Santa Fe High School had it all. Their staff had been trained what to do in case of an active shooter. At all times there were two armed police officers roaming, interacting with students and watching out for potential threats. And according to reports the school district had been entertaining the idea of arming staff.

Yet with only a sawed off shotgun and a .38 caliber handgun, 17-year-old Dimitrious Pagourtzis entered the school, shot and killed two teachers, eight students and wounded 13 others. It was also reported that instead of killing himself as he had previously planned, he instead engaged in a prolonged gun battle with officers and then finally surrendered.

Such events have always caught my attention, perhaps more so than others. Much like last week’s school shooting in Noblesville. But a statement made by J. R. Norman, the president of Santa Fe’s school district’s board of trustees showed the reality of what schools in this environment are facing, and what the so-called experts, hand-wringers and the young blind mice who follow the progressive pied pipers can’t or won’t admit. Mr. Norman told the press, “If someone wants to get into a school to create havoc, they can do it.”

Now before you convince yourself that Mr. Norman’s statement cannot stand, maybe you should go jump into a cold shower. Perhaps you believe that getting rid of all the bump stocks will prevent future mass shootings, or ridding ourselves of what you believe are assault-type weapons, or maybe if we install metal detectors at every school door, or perhaps we limit students to entering their schools through just one entrance and if we would only outlaw violent video games then problem solved.

Well, for all those souls always harping that we don’t respect our young people enough, that we need to respect their insights, intelligence, and their potential, I would have to agree. However, that also means that just as we respect the young for their capabilities to do good, so too do we need to understand there are those capable of committing the most heinous and evil acts.

Now perhaps the terrorist trained by Hamas or ISIS may be more sophisticated, more committed to a cause and maybe even better armed, but that does not mean a 17-year-old terrorist like Pagouortzis or the Parkland school shooter Nikolas Cruz are not capable of analyzing and exploiting any given opportunity to wreak chaos upon an unsuspecting student body. Since the 1950’s through the 1970’s, schools districts merged to offer more opportunities, save the taxpayer’s dollars and create much larger student populations. Although there are students who have reaped more educational related opportunities, the results have also produced those who feel isolated and disenfranchised. They are the students lost in the herd to the point that they eventually feel a sense of abstract self-empowerment. Santa Fe High had an enrollment of 1,462 students while Marjory Stoneman Douglas had 3,158. Small towns in their own right.

The physical aspects of school security becomes challenging. Utilize only one entrance? Most high schools have anywhere between 5-10 entrances. And because of potential emergencies, you can’t keep them locked. Put a metal detector at the entrance? The shooter will simply have an unwitting accomplice open a window somewhere where the security cameras aren’t. Armed officers? Great idea, but how many is enough? Teachers with guns? It’s a thought, but is a teacher’s first concern staying in the classroom and protect their students when there are shots heard in the hallway, or rush out to engage the shooter hoping that he doesn’t shoot you first? We cannot throw up our hands, nor can we give in to the evil amongst us. But an acknowledgement might be in order. No matter how hard a parent tries to keep their child wrapped in innocence, at the same time they need also to recognize, we’re no longer living in Mr. Roger’s neighborhood.

Bob Rinearson is a resident of Fort Wayne and worked 38 years in both educational and correctional settings in areas of student management and security.