Tuesday, July 5

The alarming proliferation of massacres in US schools forces us to turn classrooms into fortresses

Washington correspondent



Faced with a future in which school shootings and killings are the norm, not an egregious exception, authorities in the United States are turning those schools in small fortresses, with airport-style security checkpoints, with their own police and in some cases even with armed teachers. These changes are the verification of the failure of the reform in the laws of possession of weapons, just in one year, 2022, which accumulates in its scarce five months 27 shootings in schools, with 27 dead and 83 injured.

It was the massacre at a Columbine high school in Colorado -1999, 13 dead in addition to the two murderers- that precipitated the biggest changes in security of a good part of the 130,000 primary and secondary schools in the US.

After the shock of that massacre, caused by two students, the immediate objective was to make the educational centers less porous: closed doors, the obligation to register all visitors, permanent surveillance cameras and alarm drills to prepare the students.

As the school massacres continued, these measures were reinforced, with the installation of bulletproof glass and, more recently, metal detectors that both students and teachers have to pass through. Many schools have also begun to install doors to classrooms without windows, so that the killers cannot see from the outside whether or not there are children in the classroom.

a new industry

At the same time, an entire industry has been emerging in the US around classroom safety. Manufacturers offer school administrators and parents a wide range of protective material for minors, such as bulletproof backpacks or armored slates to use as a shield. It is an entire industry, known as school shielding, which also includes private security services with armed agents to protect classrooms. According to a 2018 estimate by the newspaper “The Washington Post”, this sector moves about 2,700 million dollars a year.

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In fact, the federal government helps schools make them safer. According to a Justice Department report from April, this year it will allocate about 320 million to a program to facilitate the hiring of security agents and other reinforcements. The purpose of this program is broader than preventing massacres, since it is also aimed at preventing drug dealing in educational centers.

In 2018, another of the worst massacres occurred in an American school, at a Parkland institute in Miami, in which 17 people died. Immediately afterwards, the then president, Donald Trump, rescued an old republican proposal that has permeated a handful of states, including Texas, site of the latest massacre: arming teachers. Trump said that the ideal to combat violence in the classroom is to have people “prepared in the handling of weapons, such as teachers and coaches,” within those schools.

That same argument has been repeated by the Republican authorities in Texas after this week’s Uvalde massacre. That state’s attorney general, Ken Paxton, later said that “you can’t stop bad people from doing bad things. We can potentially arm, prepare and train teachers and other administrators to respond quickly.” According to an analysis by the Ap agency, in the state of Texas there are 253 employees of educational centers who play the role of bailiffs, with weapons, in 62 school districts.

make the problem worse

Not a few Democrats and teacher unions oppose this proposal to plague schools with weapons. One of the most critical is Deputy Val Demings, from Florida, who states that «arming teachers is a recipe for disaster: a reckless plan that will further complicate those shootings, as well as forcing teachers to take not only the responsibility, but also the damage, pain and blame when they find themselves outgunned, with our children caught in the crossfire. The solution is simple: no more guns in the classroom, but laws that keep guns out of the hands of people who shouldn’t have them.” Democrats are the only ones who promote limiting gun ownership.

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The truth is that the primary school in Uvalde, where an 18-year-old youth killed 19 children and two teachers, had a sophisticated security system, according to recent reports published in the local press: armed private security agents, fencing around schools, closing classrooms with latches, internal and external threat alarms, and software to control violent messages on social networks. That did not stop the slaughter.

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