Friday, April 18, 2008

School security

Each morning, the students swipe their ID tags as they climb onto the school bus. A radio frequency tag tracks them, as it does when they arrive at school and as they leave the building.
Cameras watch them all day. Every visitor — parents, volunteers, the guy who fills the Coke machine — must surrender his or her driver's license to a secretary who checks it against a national database of sex offenders. This fall, nearly one in three schools literally trap visitors inside a "secure vestibule," a bulletproof glass room, until they're checked out. Welcome to the brave new world of school security. In an era when deadly school shootings seem to happen like clockwork, schools are hardening up, trying unconventional means to deter violence and keep track of students and adults.
This is not my grandson’s school but a real one I picked off the Internet. Scary isn’t it? This morning around 10 am I went to his school to bring him something he forgot at our house this morning. As I walked up and tugged at the doors, I was surprised but they were locked. Instead of walking in I read a rather large sign that directed me to “push the doorbell” on an intercom type of a gizmo with a button. “Could this be the “doorbell” they were referring to on the sign. Didn’t look like a doorbell but more like a gizmo of some type. I checked all over the door just to make sure there wasn’t a real doorbell somewhere else on the door and this sign wasn’t turned around or something. Kids have a habit of doing those things, you know. I was nervous being here in the first place and I didn’t want to make some type of an error with security, of all things, as I’m sure I would feel the full wrath of the Principal. [I’m still scared of Principals.] After I reread the sign directing me to do so and carefully following the arrow that was on the sign, which told me where the “doorbell” was, I pushed the button, with much trepidation. A very nice voice, female one it was, came through the gizmo and inquired of my mission. I convinced her that my mission was righteous and she said ”please come in to the office and we will help you”. I waited for the telltale clunk as the magnet pulled up the latch to unlock the door. The noise didn’t come but I still tried the door and found it now mysteriously open. “Must work off the Internet or something” I reasoned as I walked through. I noticed a small camera above my head silently filming me. “Filming” is probably the wrong word to use. I assumed that the camera was hooked up to a computer that was using some type of facial recognition software to determine whether I was a terrorist, a casino cheat, or a child molester. It turns out that they don’t have that type of software and that there wasn’t 10 security guards, being led by the Principal, that were waiting to swoop down on me if I messed up. Things have really changed in our schools and I’m sure that there will be many more changes coming in the near future. I think that the real threat is the child molester and not the terrorist.
The first paragraph of this story is about Houston, TX and they have a much more serious problem than we do but I’m sure were not far behind when it comes to school security. When my daughter 1st went to school it was in the state capital of South Dakota. She walked the three blocks to school and there definitely were not any cameras there and the doors were not locked. I’m not sure they were even locked at night. Our house doors weren’t. At the school where my daughter teaches, Middle School, which is a mere 1 block away from her son's school, the teachers become the front line of defense. They pull duty greeting visitors to the school and make sure that they are not terrorists before letting them in. The teachers refer to this as "Target Duty" and that is exactly what it is. Houston's idea of trapping visitors inside of a "secure vestibule" of bullet proof glass is a bit more teacher friendly. It was a different environment 40 years ago. I'm not so sure I like the "Progress" that we have made in those 40 years.

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