Florida might be on the very opposite end of the country from our northern-most Minnesota, but every last corner of the country has felt the tragedy that rocked Stoneman Douglas High School this past February 14, 2018 as if it were their own.
The conversation about what should be done feels somehow different after this latest shooting – in part, probably, because most everyone is sick of using terms like “latest” shooting.
Especially when it comes to our schools.
As 17-year-old survivor Emma Gonzalez said in her (now famous) speech on 2/17,
“I watched an interview this morning and noticed that one of the questions was, do you think your children will have to go through other school shooter drills? And our response is that our neighbors will not have to go through other school shooter drills. When we’ve had our say with the government — and maybe the adults have gotten used to saying ‘it is what it is,’ but if us students have learned anything, it’s that if you don’t study, you will fail. And in this case if you actively do nothing, people continually end up dead, so it’s time to start doing something.”
And, finally (and perhaps late, but better late than never), it seems things are starting to move towards something, anything, like tangible, quantifiable change.
What that will actually look like, however, remains to be seen.
Politics and proposals
In Minnesota, top Republican Senate leaders have proposed a major overhaul of security systems at Minnesota schools. The changes, proposed 2/26, and currently with at least tentative bipartisan support, include adding bulletproof glass and steel doors to classrooms, as well stationing armed security guards or police and funneling traffic through single point entrances into school buildings.
There was also proposed a new state fire alarm policy; an attempt to keep students from evacuating the classroom when a fire alarm goes on right into the shooter’s line of fire.
Bipartisan support, because school safety is one of the few areas in which Democrats and Republicans can see (mostly) eye-to-eye. But there is, of course, still debate – that debate seems to focus solely on how much security will be added to schools; how many of these measures will be implemented. The question of whether or not turning public schools (as private schools are, by design, able to go their own way on the issue) into prison-like compounds is the right course of action.
As DFL Representative Carlos Mariani of St. Paul asked, “Do we want to reinforce this notion of being under siege constantly? Are there alternative ways in which we can make our society safer?”
Though schools would be allowed to choose which of the aforementioned pieces they would add to their campus.
Another piece of the push that remains contentious (and not just in Minnesota) is the possibility of training teachers to carry guns in school, as well as a “bonus” that President Trump talked about for teachers willing to get gun training – something that Democrats are unwilling even to consider.
The security overhaul and implementation of these (of whatever gets passed) security measures will be funded by a “Safe Schools Fund” that Senate Republicans have detailed as part of their plan. This is, perhaps, the greatest sign of progress towards the greater good: the republican agenda is one often of cutting such programs in order to save taxpayer dollars.
“Number one is, you harden the target,” Senator Carla Nelson, a republican from Rochester, said. “We need to stand here today and we need to start to figure out how we can keep our kiddos safe at our schools.”
The issue of gun control, limiting access to guns, and/or outright bans, however, was not addressed on either side of the aisle.
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