School Shootings and Einstein’s Insanity

Einstein defines insanity as doing the same thing over and over and expecting to get different results.

I was a middle school teacher working in what is currently the Oxford High School building when Columbine occurred. I don’t think there is a teacher that was working then that does not think of schools in terms of before and after Columbine.

Prior to Columbine we only had tornado and fire drills. The copycat threats came and I remember for the first time having to evacuate the school. Over the next few years we started training the students in evacuation and lockdown drills. The teachers were given “codes” that would be announced over the public address system so we could tell if it was a drill or a real situation.

I watched the chaos at Sandy Hook when I checked the news during my prep period. I was horrified at the violence that was happening in an elementary school. Somehow it didn’t seem possible that a mass shooting could occur at a school where the kids were so little.

The response of most districts was to “harden” the entrances to all of our schools. The school doors were only opened at the beginning of the day. As soon as the students were in, all doors were locked. Over the next few years we spent millions of dollars to redesign school offices so that all parents and visitors were kept on the other side of bullet proof glass until they showed photo ID and were buzzed in.

After Parkland the training of students and staff was stepped up with active shooter drills. Fortunately, the students and staff of Oxford High School were well trained in how to respond to an active shooter or, as the Oakland County Sheriff said, “there would have been even more deaths”.

After each event there was a huge outcry for new gun legislation. People said that we should be focusing on the victims and it was not the time to discuss new legislation. There was time for that after the mourning. Unfortunately, as time passes the passion to make changes dissipates and eventually after each event nothing was done.

Something has to change. Are we always going to be reactive to the latest school shooting or at some point do we become proactive and try and figure out how to break the cycle of school gun violence?

Do we want our children entering school as if it is a fortress? Bullet proof doors and windows, metal detectors at the entrances, searching students and visitors as they enter the building? What about after school events? The concerts, plays, athletic events? Do these become closed to the public and we start having to increase security to get into every sporting event, concert and honors assembly?

Our responses as a society have been to keep “hardening” the school campuses. It hasn’t worked. It is time we take a serious look at ourselves as a society and start deciding what type of environment we want to raise our children in.

As a retired teacher my heart breaks for the students and teachers that are still working in the schools. I have been asked several times what my thoughts are about what happened in Oxford.

I am frustrated that mass shootings in school have become so common that instead of being wall to wall coverage on cable news it is just another news story.

I am frustrated that people are so quickly moving into their partisan talking points. “We need more gun laws” or “we have plenty of gun laws that we don’t enforce” or “why didn’t the school stop this before it happened?”

I am frustrated that people are pointing fingers and immediately looking for someone to blame, someone who didn’t do their job, someone who allowed this to happen. I don’t know of anyone in education, law enforcement or the general public that would have willingly allowed this horrific event to occur.

It is time everything gets put on the table. We need all hands on deck working together to figure out what is needed to break this cycle of violence.

Sheriff Bouchard in one of his first press conferences indicated that we don’t need new gun laws. We have plenty of gun laws on the books that are not enforced. My question is why? Why aren’t they being enforced? Are the laws written poorly so it is difficult for prosecutors to get convictions? Are there loopholes that need to be closed? Are we not funding our police and prosecutors offices with the resources that are necessary to follow up on these cases?

Owning a gun is a right that comes with responsibility. Gun laws need to reflect this responsibility. Old laws need to be repealed. Enforceable laws need to be written that reflect common sense rules for responsible gun ownership.

Today I heard my state legislator say that laws requiring guns to be locked up within a home could not be enforced. He missed the point. No one would expect police to be checking on where people are storing their weapons. The law would allow prosecutors a way to hold people accountable if their guns were used in a crime and they had given a shooter easy access to the gun by not properly storing their weapon or reporting it as stolen.

School disciplinary policies need to be reviewed. School officials are currently in a no win situation. For every decision they make on discipline half the parents will agree and half the parents will fight the decision. Some parents feel their child should not have to obey school policies they don’t agree with or they don’t want their child to have a discipline referral placed in their records.

Oftentimes things happen that are not specifically listed in the student code of conduct handbook. When this happens schools have no legal right to discipline a child or remove them from school. The result is no discipline for the student and the behavior is added to the handbook beginning with the next school year.

Schools need the resources to work with students individually. Large class sizes, too large of caseloads for counselors, school psychologists and social workers do not allow staff to build the individual relationships that are necessary to quickly identify when a student is in trouble.

Hindsight is twenty-twenty. Coulda, shoulda and woulda are easy to say with all the information after the fact. It is time to stop limiting our focus to the specifics of each individual attack and start being proactive in how we work with students and address school violence.

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Karen Kudla

Karen Kudla

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I am a retired teacher with a passion for equal opportunity through education for all.