MARJORY STONEMAN DOUGLAS HIGH SCHOOL’S SECURITY SYSTEM WAS INEFFECTIVE AND INADEQUATE, BUT WHAT DOES AN EFFECTIVE SCHOOL SECURITY LOOK LIKE?
A TIPPING POINT IS REACHED: SUBSEQUENT TO THE MASS SHOOTING INCIDENT AT MARJORY STONEMAN DOUGLAS HIGH SCHOOL, IN PARKLAND, FLORIDA, THE PUBLIC CLAMORS FOR AND DEMANDS ANSWERS, AN ACCOUNTING, AND A CALL FOR CORRECTIVE MEASURES ACROSS THE COUNTRY.
Parkland, Florida is a wealthy enclave abutting prominent Florida Cities—Coral Springs, Boca Raton, and Palm Beach. The public learned about Parkland after tragedy struck the City’s public high school: Marjory Stoneman Douglas. A deranged young man, 19-year old Nikolas Cruz, entered the School on February 14, 2018, armed with a semiautomatic rifle and several rounds of ammunition. During the ensuing shooting spree, Cruz murdered 17 people, including both students and teachers. He wounded several more students, many seriously.
Why Nikolas Cruz went on a shooting rampage is open to speculation. How it is he succeeded in killing and injuring innocent people, isn’t. Unlike many schools across the Country, both public and private—including preschools, elementary schools, middle schools, and high schools, as well as colleges and universities—it is abundantly clear that one School, Marjory Stoneman Douglas, had woefully inadequate security. The lack of adequate security gave the killer an open invitation to visit harm on the School, and he took full advantage of security deficiencies to wreak havoc–with immediacy and ferocity–on innocent students and teachers alike.
THREE CRITICAL FAILURES LED TO HORRIFIC TRAGEDY
THE FIRST FAILURE
The Board of Education of Marjory Stoneman Douglas employed one Broward County Sheriff’s Deputy at the School, dubbed the “School Resource Officer.” Apparently, that was the only security provided. Once Nikolas Cruz began his rampage through the School, murdering both students and teachers, Deputy Sheriff Scott Peterson, hunkered down behind a barrier, outside the School, his handgun drawn. But, he never ventured inside the School to confront the shooter. A few more Broward County Sheriff’s Deputies arrived soon after. They, too, never ventured inside the School even though Peterson repeatedly said gunshots were coming from inside the School building.
Once the Coral Springs Police SWAT team arrived, the members were aghast to find Broward County Sheriffs’ Deputies huddled together outside the School—none had entered the School, to stop the shooter. And where was he? Unlike many mass shooting incidents, the killer in the Parkland, Florida incident, Nikolas Cruz, obviously didn’t have a personal death wish even as he dealt death on others. He left the School Building, blending in with other students. He was later apprehended by an Officer from the Coconut Creek Police Department.
THE SECOND FAILURE
Both the Broward County Sheriff (‘BSO’) Scott Israel and the Miami Office of the FBI received a substantial number of tips, warning of the erratic behavior of Nikolas Cruz through the months, weeks, and even days leading up to the tragedy, but neither the FBI nor the Sheriff acted on the tips. In fact, the BSO Scott Israel received 45 tips involving the danger Nikolas Cruz posed to the community, but did nothing. Ever the politician, Scott Israel blames others under his command for his own failures to protect his community and not surprisingly has rebuffed calls for his resignation. The FBI doesn’t escape unscathed from the failure to act, either. The Miami Herald reports the FBI delivered an official apology. An official apology from the FBI may be extraordinary, but it hardly suffices and comes across as lame. Governor Rick Scott called for FBI Director Christopher Wray to step down. He won’t.
THE THIRD FAILURE
The High School did not inform the police about dangerous students. This undoubtedly speaks to President Barack Obama’s legacy policy.
“In an effort to combat the “school to prison pipeline,” schools across the country have come under pressure from the federal government and civil rights activists to reduce suspensions, expulsions, and in-school arrests. The unintended consequences of pressuring schools to produce ever-lower discipline statistics deserve much more examination.
Florida’s Broward County, home to Marjory Stoneman Douglas High, was among the leaders in this nationwide policy shift. According to Washington Post reporting, Broward County schools once recorded more in-school arrests than any other Florida district.”
President Trump and his Education Secretary, Betsy DeVos, must change a previous Administration’s nonsensical policy.
WHAT IS BEING DONE TO ADDRESS WOEFULLY INEFFECTIVE AND INADEQUATE SECURITY SYSTEMS IN MANY OF OUR NATION’S SCHOOLS?
In the aftermath of the Parkland, Florida tragedy, the Florida State Legislature drafted legislation in the hope of preventing future tragedies. The bill, titled the Marjory Stoneman Douglas Public Safety Act (2018 Bill Text FL S.B. 7026), was signed into law by Governor Rick Scott on Friday, March 9, 2018. Other States are in the process of drafting and enacting their own bills. In all instances, the question that must be asked is this: Does legislation to prevent future school tragedies truly address the issue of school safety or is school safety merely the pretext to further restrict legitimate firearms’ rights of the average, rational, law-abiding citizen? A quick look at the Florida Act leads one to conclude that at least a couple of features of the Act have nothing to do with School safety and everything to do with gun control.
Evidence of the insertion of antigun agenda policies exists in the Florida Act: the imposition of a three-day waiting period between the date of purchase and receipt of any firearm; and age constraints as no person under the age of 21 may purchase any firearm.
If legislation is truly designed to prevent future tragedy in schools, then legislation should be directed to and limited to that effort.
WHAT DOES A RESPONSIBLE, RESPONSIVE, CREDIBLE SECURITY SCHOOL PLAN CONSIST OF?
Two important points must be addressed before discussing corrective actions for Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School or for that matter, any other school in this Country. First, no security system, regardless of sophistication and refinement, is worth the cost of its design and implementation if those charged with its operation provide half-hearted efforts to see to it that the system functions at optimum efficiency, reliability, and effectiveness. Second, where systemic failures exist, lives will always be at risk.
The School Resource Officer, Deputy Sheriff Scott Peterson, who did not confront the shooter, is a coward; no question about it; and the other Deputy Sheriffs who arrived soon after the shooting began, did not confront the shooter either. Their inaction or inappropriate action amounts to ineptitude and gross incompetence at least; and abject cowardice at worst. Our takeaway: even the inclusion of armed security personnel in the design of a security system—which ought to be considered a critical aspect of an effective security system—is of no value if security personnel lack both the requisite training and ability to counter a threat or, otherwise, are physically or psychologically unsuited to the task of confronting a deadly threat quickly, stalwartly, and forcefully.
WHAT SHOULD AN EFFECTIVE SCHOOL SECURITY SYSTEM CONSIST OF?
The expression, ‘hardening,’ of security defenses of a school often comes up in discussion. What does this mean? As we use the expression, it means that an effective security system—a truly effective security system—must be multilayered and multifaceted. Such a security system should consist of three primary layers or facets. The first layer consists of an array of “passive” technological and non-technological features, implemented throughout the school or incorporated into the structure of the school. See the Arbalest Quarrel article, Part One on School Safety. A second layer consists of both armed and unarmed personnel, monitoring and patrolling the school building and school grounds. A third layer requires involvement of students, faculty, and administrators and requires, too, the active involvement of the community at large. If erratic dangerous behavior is perceived in a student, that behavior should be reported to the appropriate senior school official or officials who must assess the level of risk and notify police officials if necessary or provide counseling for that individual. And, if, or when, an active threat occurs, students, teachers, school administrators, and security personnel must have a plan of action and must be prepared to execute that plan of action immediately.
In our next article we will look at each of these facets of security in more depth.
GET INVOLVED! CALL YOUR STATE OR LOCAL GOVERNMENT!
Find out what your State and local government officials have done to make all the schools in your community—preschool; elementary, middle and high schools; technical schools, and colleges and universities—safe.
This, ultimately, is your responsibility. If your government officials have taken no action or minimal action or are reluctant to discuss the issue with you at all, then you must join with other members of your community to make sure your government officials are responsive to and do listen to your concerns and that they address the issue of school security. After all, these Government officials work for you. not for themselves, and they owe it to you to make sure that the life and well-being of your children are safe. There is no excuse for delay. Don’t wait for your child to become another statistic!
Copyright © 2018 Roger J Katz (Towne Criour), Stephen L. D’Andrilli (Publius) All Rights Reserved.