How do We Make School Safety a Priority?

Once again, we have recently learned of another tragic school shooting of 3 nine-year-olds and 3 staff members of the Covenant School in Nashville Tennessee. This is a small private school with little notoriety and would be an unusual place to be targeted. The shooter, Audrey Hale, into her 20’s had left a manifesto and warned a friend that she would die that day. Although she had some signals of difficulties and was under care for an emotional disorder, she was not diagnosed and there were no other warnings about her intentions until law enforcement found a sketch of the school building outlining the entrances that she would use to get into the building.

This is such a tragedy for the families of those that were lost, of the school and of the community. It is the worst kind of trauma leaving a path of fear, anger, grief and confusion. We can offer prayers and support for them as they process this horror in their lives. There are not words to describe the level of loss for this community and it will take some time for normalcy to be restored. It is all so devastating.

For those of us who are responsible for the safety of our schools, our students and our staff these kinds of situations are alarming and perplexing. In this case there were few precautions that would have prevented this shooting. Audrey shot the school door open and went on an indiscriminate rampage. Fortunately, the police responded swiftly and stopped the shooting before it became worse than it could have been considering the weapons she was carrying. 

We have come to the place where our staff and students in our schools feel vulnerable and unsafe. No matter what precautions we take there is no guarantee that any of our schools can be penetrated by an active shooter who has secured powerful weapons that can create a great deal of carnage. 

To me this has reached a state of urgency in our country. Added to the weight of the mental health issues that have permeated our country, our school leadership and boards are now facing a dilemma of safety where there are few solutions. We are all asking precaution questions and wonder what our next steps should be to protect our schools. These are discussions that we are having with our leadership and staff. That includes doing drills, looking at campus security, training our staff and preparing students for this kind of fearful activity.

I think school safety should become a topic of priority in our politics, communities and law enforcement. We need the support of our communities and government to give us the tools to help protect our schools. None of us want to admit that our schools may be next but when you think of a small private school that is now devastated, we recognize that it can happen to any of our schools. It is time to take action and work together to prevent this kind of tragedy. It has happened far too often and has brought a level of fear and uncertainty as to how to keep our schools safe.

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