I Hate This! Student Suspended for Opening Door

Readers — As you know, Free-Range Kids is about trust, community and common sense. All of which a Virginia middle school student displayed the other day when he held open the door for someone he knew.

For this, he was given a day long suspension. The reason? The school had just installed a $10,000 + security system, and his action violated it. Voila:

According to an anonymous e-mail sent to The Tidewater News, the “A” student opened the door for a woman he knew, who had her hands full. The e-mail also indicated the student received a one-day, out-of-school suspension.

[School administrator Wayne K.] Smith said he could not confirm the story for confidentiality reasons. Superintendent Charles Turner said he did not know all the details behind the suspension.

Turner said the policy that prohibits anyone from opening doors was part of making the security system work.

“If it happens, it’s defeated,” he said. “You have to have a system, and that system has to be consistent. We have to stay within the rules and stay secure.”

Turner explained that part of the school district’s mission is to provide a quality education in a safe environment.

“We looked at what we’re doing in our schools for safety and looked at what others have done,” he said.

That’s why the security system was installed initially at the secondary schools and then the elementary schools.

And yet, what the school fails to understand is that the student was an even BETTER security system! The student has a heart, a brain and hands. This incredible carbon-based security system can open the door when that makes sense! It can create a climate of warmth, help and connectedness that a locked door, even operated by remote control from the front office, cannot.

We are happier and safer when we connect, rather than we assume we’re all in dire peril and must outsource our humanity to excessive rules and   machines. — Lenore

106 Responses

  1. So they make the school safer by endangering a kid’s education because he opened a door?

  2. We’re living in Huxley’s Brave New World where computers are supposed to do the thinking for us.

  3. Excuse my “Def Comedy Jam” language, but damn it all!

    You know what would be great? It would be great if whatever egghead is responsible for this–especially the enforcement aspect–was himself or herself heading to the school with their arms full, and got the door slammed in their face, and it caused them to drop all the boxes they were carrying in their arms–AND it was raining outside, and 35°F, and the winds were blowing 45 mph, and the resulting winds caused paper-based contents to be blown all over the place, rained-on, and trampled on.

    Man, oh man, how badly I wish it.

    LRH

  4. well they wouldnt like the inner city school my kids go to .Most Schools in australia are open plan (not one or two big building like I see the american ones are) ours are low and rambling and have like 20 buildings joined by walk ways etc. All the doors are open here all day long….

    (that said there is a fence etc around the prep (5 year olds) area which people must remember to close behind them as they are still quiet young and could *wander off*)

    and they are right. These systems dont work if people open doors for people, which we often do. There isnt really an aswer for that. You either have an expensive system that you ‘police’ or you dont police it and incidents will happen, or you dont have expensive system…

  5. well they wouldnt like the inner city school my kids go to .Most Schools in australia are open plan (not one or two big building like I see the american ones are) ours are low and rambling and have like 20 buildings joined by walk ways etc. There is no main door etc.. All the doors are open here all day long….even the door to the school office is open to the outside

    (that said there is a fence etc around the prep (5 year olds) area which people must remember to close behind them as they are still quiet young and could *wander off*)

    and they are right. These systems dont work if people open doors for people, which we often do. There isnt really an aswer for that. You either have an expensive system that you ‘police’ or you dont police it and incidents will happen, or you dont have expensive system…

  6. My kids’ school has a sign on the door stating that “kids are not allowed to open the doors,” there are three buzzers, each with cameras and you buzz the appropriate area. Now, really, these kids will open doors for adults they know. It is a small, and I mean tiny school. By the time they are in 8th grade they’ve been together for usually 10 years…But what the sign lets the kids do is feel confident that they can TOTALLY just walk on by if they don’t know the adult and not feel like they are being rude. And I think that’s okay. It’s similar to what my mom told me growing up “If you EVER need an excuse not to do something, feel free to blame me.” My OB gave me similar advice as a response to shut others up when I was pregnant.

    Also, this is a school that is part of a church, and the church office doors are always open during the day, so someone can always go in that entrance if you, for some reason, couldn’t wait for the buzzer.

    I think what the school did in the above store is just moronic. And actions like that are the reason we pulled our kids out of public school and put them in private school. I want my kids to understand how to react to a situation based on the situation, based on the facts not just on some law of “don’t ever bring knives…even if you need it to cut a steak.” No wonder nobody can use common sense and they need to be told not to lick the sharp side of the cheese greater. gah.

  7. Great. Wonderful. The mom tells the boy that he should be polite and open the door (for ladies) and he gets suspended? I hope all the kids start slamming the doors in the staff’s faces.

  8. Oh, and this system would not work at many of the schools in California either. They mostly have an open plan, no real fences and hallways that are open to the air. And lots of stand alone portables. And there is no way that except for the richest of the schools that they can do anything about this because California has NO money to even keep libraries and buses. (In general.)

  9. Just what was the terrible occurrence that prompted the school to need such prison-like ‘safety’ features?

  10. Come on! You know all kids are too dumb to recognize adults who should be allowed into the school. That’s why they get kidnapped every day!

    And heaven forbid anyone go outside the rules just because it’s the sensible thing to do. We can’t have people thinking they know anything. It’s bad for the machines. They get jealous.

  11. in our school system, out-of-school suspensions go on your record, and in-school suspensions do not. and unless the infraction is severe with built-in consequences (e.g. bringing a gun to school), the principals often have a choice. i have seen them choose one or the other to make sure the event stays ON a kid’s record, or to make sure it stays OFF of it.

  12. Can one trust anyone or anything in a world where nobody is trusted?

  13. Unfortunately, schools now have to watch their backs for potential litigation. What if the person was involved in a custody battle? What if they had an emotional breakdown? What if……?? Our lives are run by the “what ifs” because some people like to sue everyone in sight at the first opportunity. Sad. I’d rather have a society where people have good manners.

  14. There was a WONDERFUL talk about zero-tolerance on Tell Me More yesterday. Google is down but it highlighted the fact that two students in one district tragically killed themselves after I think expulsions but it might have been suspensions.

    http://www.npr.org/2011/03/01/134162902/zero-tolerance-rules-under-fire-in-high-schools

  15. This is really terrifying to me, that our sense of community has been so replaced by such fear.

  16. He got suspended for being courteous to someone? What is wrong with the id10t who did the suspension? I hope no one ever opens a door for them!

  17. Like North of 49, I was struck by the fact that students are barred from being courteous to their teachers and fellow students. This security system is definitely teaching the wrong sort of lesson.

  18. This sucks. And then to read all the comments about the security systems at other people’s schools; apparently it’s NORMAL and not an outrage to have schools done-up like prisons. And then this linked story: Sup Court to hear case of 9-y.o. badgered by sheriff & soc worker for 2 hrs w/out mom or lawyer present.

    “Cry, the beloved country, for the unborn child that is the inheritor of our fear”.

  19. “and they are right. These systems dont work if people open doors for people, which we often do. There isnt really an aswer for that. You either have an expensive system that you ‘police’ or you dont police it and incidents will happen, or you dont have expensive system…”

    This is fairly well true. If you’ve got an expensive automated security system you can’t have the children going around letting people in (note: HUGE difference between the kid opening an exterior door to let someone in, or opening any other doors).

    The punishment, however, is excessive. A serious telling off, sure, or a detention, but not a suspension. That’s serious business that sticks on your record.

  20. I’m seeing a pattern with zero tolerance suspensions and straight A students. It seems to me that maybe there is a desire on the part of administrators to “take them down a peg” and silly suspensions are a convenient way to that. It seems that it’s a way to remind themselves that while the kids may be smarter than the admins, the admins can still be tyrannical when they get the chance.

  21. We have similar systems at our schools, elementary through high school. The impetus for them is always the same, Columbine and then the Amish school. But when you try to point out that neither was caused by a stranger who did not belong, you get the evil eye that says, “you must not love your kids.” Yes, if someone were to walk up to the door carrying an automatic weapon in plain view, it would discourage them. But to think by being buzzed in by a secretary they are any safer is ridiculous.

  22. Let’s start first with the idea that schools NEED expensive security systems. Most do not. There are likely some schools that do need a decent level of security to keep the homeless, theives, gangs and drug dealers roaming the halls limited to those actually enrolled in the school but most schools are reasonably safe from the outside world. The biggest threats (and the threat is not the great) to kids in school are other kids and the teachers – those people who are allowed to be there and would get passed any security system no matter how expensive. Yes there have been tragic stories of strangers coming into schools and killing students, however, I can think of 2 in recent history out of the millions of schools throughout the world. It’s a freak occurrence. The stranger exposing himself in the bathroom is a rare occurence too. Most schools can be adequately policed by just being aware of who is around just like they were when we were children.

    Further, there is a HUGE difference between a kid holding the door for someone he knows (as was the case in this situation) and a kid letting some unknown person into the school. One is common courtesy that we should be teaching our children. The other is worth speaking to the child about.

    I think that the school would be sadly disappointed by my response to this situation as a parent. After giving the principal a piece of my mind and addressing the school board, I’d take my kid someplace fun on his day off school and tell him to continue to be courteous if he wants and we’ll just continue to have fun days when he gets suspended.

  23. Here is school districts website:

    http://www.southampton.k12.va.us/education/components/layout/default.php?sectiondetailid=11750&

    and email for one administrator named in story, Dr. Wayne K. Smith:

    wksmith@southhampton.k12.va.us

    The district website has a link to an extensive policy manual at the bottom.

  24. I can only say that a school where they teach children to be impolite (and they even threaten the kids with suspension if they show kindness) is definitely NOT one I would send my kids to.

  25. This is one instance where I’d tell my kid to ignore the rule and let me deal with the aftermath.

    * facepalm *

  26. I guess turning every human into a brain-washed, non-common sense using robot is the world’s new security system. Unbelievable.

  27. But it’s much easier to run the world filled with automatons who are afraid and unable to think. Then you just give them commands and they obey, and everyone is happy and secure. Except for those of us who are actually able to think and delight in being able to talk to others who are able to think.

  28. I go into schools frequently as part of my job, but i’ve never gotten used to the suspicion and prison-like atmosphere that greets visitors. I work in one of the wealthiest communities in my state, very sprawly, difficult access to most of the schools, yet there are all these rules. You have to get buzzed in (because it’s obvious whether you have bad intentions just looking at you, right?). The minute you get inside, they’re all over you: “CAN I HELP YOU MA’AM” (Yes, I’m here to sleep with every 14-year-old boy you’ve got, which way is the locker room?). Then you have to go sign in, get a badge, and get an escort to where you’re going. I’m waiting for the day when they pat me down and ask to see inside my purse.

    What does it do to kids to spend their formative years in such an environment, I wonder?

  29. I think I would take the day off work and take my kid out for a day of fun and tell the school to screw off.

  30. Hey this exact same thing happened to me on Monday.

    I got to my kids’ elementary school to pick them up from the after school program run by the school. Generally, you get there and press a button by the door and the person in the office (who can see via a camera and a window) presses a button which allows you to open the door of the school.

    When I got there, there were 2 other parents already waiting outside. This is unusual in that there is always someone in the office. I looked in the office window and saw three kids in there and communicated that we needed to get in. One of the girls, a fifth grader who has gone to the same school as my kids for 5 years and who lives in the same neighborhood as we do and who takes taekwondo where my kids do and who uses the same swimming pool as us (you get the point), came to the door and let us in.

    As we were coming in, the man who is usually in the office after school came running up and admonished the girl (very politely) for letting us in and said that he had to be the only one to open the door.

    While I’m sure that policy is not one he made up and he is only trying to go by the rules, the kicker for me was that one of the three adults who the girl let in was this girl’s grandfather, who was there to pick her up.

    The girl was not punished in any way, so I’m proud to say our school is not loony, but it did make me realize how much things have changed from when I was in school and it would have seemed odd that every door in the school was not unlocked.

  31. If it were my kid, I’d send them to school the day of suspension. What would happen? Seriously?

  32. If I had a child lodged in this government school, I’d suggest they organize a door-opening protest day. Where every student takes it in turn to open a door in front of a teacher or administrator for the sole purpose of shutting down the school.

    My guess is that the rule would get rewritten very quickly toward the realm of common sense.

  33. My kids’ public high school has the same policy as far as the locked door and buzzer, and frankly, I don’t have a problem with it. It’s a large building with many rooms and nearly 1000 students and faculty. There have been past incidents in the district, not with kidnapping, but with people coming into schools and making trouble. One parent showed up with a gun because of unhappiness with some school official. He was escorted out without incident, but you do want to avoid that sort of thing.

    No one is supposed to let a person in, during school hours, who has not been buzzed in. Before and after school hours, the doors remain locked from the inside but it is permitted to open them for others. However, what happened in the incident that Susan described is what should happen — the student should gently be told not to do it again. In the case of the person coming in with full hands, she could have waited until the buzzer sounded for the unlocked door, and then opened it. I realize that’s unpleasantly inconvenient and it’s not an ideal solution, but if a security system is deemed necessary, then you can’t have students breaching it on their own authority. A discussion on whether that level of security is necessary might be in order, though. For example, students could be told they are allowed to open the door for their own relatives and for teachers/school officials they recognize.

  34. Pentamom – That assumes the security system is actually necessary. Your school found it necessary due to actual incidents, and that’s fine, but there are also schools who deem it “necessary” solely on the “what ifs”.

    For example, one of the schools I used to attend had a total student population (K-12) of about 250. It was in a town of about 1000, in the middle of National Forest, with almost 0 crime. At some point, someone decided to put in a buzzer system anyway. And it was only on the doors nearest the office. The doors on the older parts were still using the basic inside lock and people could open them for others all the time. The “let none in” rule was ignored and not enforced, since everyone knew everyone, but the system was still there.

  35. @ pentamom: “A discussion on whether that level of security is necessary might be in order, though. For example, students could be told they are allowed to open the door for their own relatives and for teachers/school officials they recognize.”

    I agree. How is a student’s judgment over who he knows that is allowed on school grounds (especially another student or teacher) any different than someone looking at the security camera and seeing it’s someone that is allowed in the school and buzzing them in? It isn’t. I think this is just an issue of school authorities feelings being hurt, because a student didn’t follow the rules to a “T”.

    Rules are in place to keep order. BUT, there are also situations were such rules can and should be flexible. At the most, all the student should have received for his courteous act, was a reminder, not a suspension.

    To add; so the school now teaches, condones and supports discourtesy. That when a student sees someone they know (and more likely trust), that needs a hand, they should just keep walking and ignore them. Leaving that decision to more “capable” hands, if or when they get around to it? Interesting.

  36. @LauraL: It appears that there was no precipitating event requiring such a security system. Accordind to the article, they decided to do it based on what other schools were doing.

    Who approved this? What were they thinking? Where did the money come from?

    Where I live, schools are struggling just to keep their doors open for the minimum required number of days of instruction; hundreds of teachers and staff in the local districts are being laid off; and schools running on shoestring budgets are being asked to cut out millions more.

    What is this school really trying to accomplish here?

  37. @ Donna: yes! I would agree and would do the same thing. I’d probably even insist on having a student, parent and teacher meeting with all the kids and their parents. So that the school admin can address the students and parents, that school policy and rules take precedence over common courtesy and common sense. That all students are instructed to ignore anyone in need of assistance coming into the school, and around it’s property, even if they are known by both staff and student. ie. other students of the school or teachers. I would also insist the principal explain the reason for this, mainly because he doesn’t have much faith in the students’ ability to make concise and logical decisions (basically he feels students don’t know anything to make good judgment calls). As well as trying to justify spending $10000 on a security system that more than likely doesn’t even need to be there. As I’ve said in the past, if your a teacher, your more than obligated to practice what you preach. Teachers (almost as much as parents) need to set the RIGHT example for the students.

  38. Library Diva: “Yes, I’m here to sleep with every 14-year-old boy you’ve got, which way is the locker room?”

    Oh, I just LOVED that sarcastic remark. Absolutely wonderful.

    On the other hand, there are examples of student-created insanity too. I read this story of where the police showed up because an 8th grader called 911 on her cell phone merely because the teacher rattled a table to get the students’ necessary attention.

    Man, I wish I had been the father of that girl. She’d lose that cellular phone REAL fast, and not only that, she’d be subject to daily searches of her person and room to make sure she hadn’t acquired another one (buying a Virgin Mobile or TracPhone at Family Dollar, say). Anyone that has that poor of judgment of when to call 911 has no right to a cell phone at all.

    Good grief! I can hardly bear to hear anymore! Argh!!!

    LRH

  39. Please look into this some more, Lenore. I suspect the woman the student let in was probably school staff, which would make this story even more bizarre.

  40. Our public schools have signs on the door asking all visitors to go to the office first, but the doors are unlocked during school hours. This is because Paranoid Brain Rot has not spread to our public school system–yet–and so local children are expected to go tell a school employee if a stranger is on the grounds. That is, they are assumed to have the brains to tell a stranger from somebody who works there and the gumption to not just let whoever it is do whatever he wants. There is a cop on duty at the high school, but he mostly is there so that students can go talk to him about what “a friend of a friend” wants “a friend” to do and ask whether it would get “the friend” in trouble.

  41. @ this girl loves to talke: “and they are right. These systems dont work if people open doors for people, which we often do. There isnt really an aswer for that. You either have an expensive system that you ‘police’ or you dont police it and incidents will happen, or you dont have expensive system…”

    So your saying just because they bought an expensive security system (just because other schools have it and not necessarily because they are in need of it because they have a problem with intruders coming in ALL the time), all basic human consideration, common sense and courtesy should just be tossed out the window?

    Hmmmm…let me ask you this, had you been the woman entering the school with your hands full and couldn’t buzz in, saw a student of yours or a student that you knew and who knew you, look at you struggling and just walk away, would you think nothing of it? I seriously doubt that. If your a person with feelings, the first thing you’d think is that student would help you, and if he didn’t, you’d feel pretty lousy being left there trying to get yourself back in. With or without a security system, common sense is still the best defence against ANY situation. Security systems DON’T have common sense.

  42. “There have been past incidents in the district, not with kidnapping, but with people coming into schools and making trouble. One parent showed up with a gun because of unhappiness with some school official.”

    And how does needing someone to buzz you in help that situation? Assuming that the parent has enough sense to not be brandishing the weapon when he buzzes, he’s allowed in the school. His child is in the school and all he has to say is that there is a family emergency and he needs to get so-and-so.

  43. They couldn’t just give this kid a talking-to?

    It should not be so easy for schools to harm good kids’ education.

    Maybe the rule makes sense, but to me, that’s not even the point. Obviously the young man meant to do a good deed. Mabye it was ill-advised, but you kow, kids make mistakes It’s always the good kids who get the short end of the stick. If the kid were an all-out delinquent, we’d be pumping out the public funding to help make his life better.

  44. Because the guy came back in with a gun after having been told to leave before. I didn’t make that clear, sorry.

    Anyway, I’m not saying that this is needed in this particular situation (we don’t have enough information to judge that), or that I’m always comfortable with schools doing this. I just mean two things: there can be situations where a high level of security is needed in a school, and, where this level of security is deemed to be needed, it can be handled in such a way that it needn’t cause the kind of stupid thing that happened in this case. Whether it’s a good idea in the first place is another matter.

    @Dragonwolf — I’m not assuming it’s necessary in this case. I’m saying that if and when it is necessary, it can be handled differently than it was handled here.

  45. “And yet, what the school fails to understand is that the student was an even BETTER security system”

    Sorry, no. Anyone involved in security knows humans are the weakest link. It’s easy social engineering to walk up carrying stuff and have someone let you in.

    I disagree with the suspension for it, but the policy itself is sound, although it’s another question whether or not it’s actually needed.

  46. […] as Lenore Skenazy writes on the Free Range Kids blog, “what the school fails to understand is that the student was an […]

  47. I am consistently amazed that there are more than enough examples for you to do a daily post on the ridiculousness of the society we are creating. It’s truly sad that there is this much fodder so easy for the picking.

  48. “I agree. How is a student’s judgment over who he knows that is allowed on school grounds (especially another student or teacher) any different than someone looking at the security camera and seeing it’s someone that is allowed in the school and buzzing them in? It isn’t.”

    But that’s not what I said. I didn’t say it should be left up to the student’s judgment; I said they should be permitted to let in certain types of known people. Any non-paranoid kid (which I hope is most of them ) is probably going to say, “Oh, that person looks harmless, oh, that ‘s so and so’s dad” and let them in, not knowing that so and so’s dad is a guy with a record of troublemaking come to threaten the principal. A person with the designated responsibility of buzzing people in would, however, know if there was a “developing” situation and whether the person at the door was expected or had a credible explanation of their presence. It’s not infallible, but having to buzz in and explain yourself is a level of protection over just having to walk up to a door and wait for a courteous person to open it. It’s at least something of a deterrent to those who have no legitimate business there and possible ill intent. Yeah, you won’t catch all the con men but you will keep out some, as opposed to none, of the people who might attempt to breach.

    On this, I agree with Rob — humans are a weak link in a security system. Given discretion, one wants to be the bad guy keeping people out, unless they’re the kind of uptight individuals none of us here want people to be. If there’s a reason to maintain security, as few people as reasonably possible should have that kind of discretion, not as many as are around.

    But again, all this is predicated on having previously established good reasons for the system to be in place, to begin with. And unless opening the door has a high likelihood of getting someone killed (and I can’t imagine such a situation) suspension is an intolerable punishment.

  49. But the assumption of all of this is that schools are so unsafe that we need security at all. It would take a lot for me to believe that expensive security and perpetually locked doors are necessities for 98% of the schools in the US. To me, a random event here and there does not justify a $10,000 expenditure and locking kids up as if they are in prison. I don’t want my child to feel that there is some threat at school on the off chance that some crazed parent may come in with a gun. If this is something that is happening in the school a few times a year, every year, then maybe. If the school is in the heart of Blood and Crips territory, probably. If the school is just the average run-of-the-mill suburban school, no. (And the schools that need security the most probably can’t afford it).

  50. I was also thinking that the suspended student just had his/her college application essay handed to them on a silver platter…

  51. When my youngest and I go by a school with the fences higher than we are allowed around our house, and locked gates and she asks why. My normal answer is that our society likes to treat children as though they are in prisons. With little respect for the under 18 year old students as humans with brains of their own.

    It does depend on her question, but I’ve had little good to say about most schools for years. Yes there are the exceptions, and there are good people working within the schools but it almost feels like brains, and common sense are checked at the locked gate or door.

  52. I do find the school layout that enables this hard to fathom. Here in New Zealand, my kids’ schools are sprawling open plan multi building low rises. My son’s enormous (2400 kids) high school just down the road has a public swimming pool in its grounds so people come and go all the time. That said, because all the kids are in uniform I think a random stranger wandering around away from the pool area would probably be asked if they needed help, but that would be the expectation – that they were lost, not up to no good.

  53. @ Eric I dont know how you insinuated that from my comment. I say you dont need a security system.. but I live in a very safe country where most schools do not have buzzers or even main doors. My childrens classrooms are about 15 metres from a main road, open varandah, just waltz on in which I do every day, often carrying things and a pram and a toddler and the kids are very helpful to me for which I am grateful for

  54. First of all, I think the suspension is too harsh.

    That said, letting kids open doors and let in “people they know” is ridiculous! There is a security system for a reason. You can’t assume that this is a school in Eden or Shangri-La, in the real world even people you know can be a danger. I am not saying you should be paranoid because, true, most people are not threats, but to decry school’s attempt to control who enters makes no sense.

  55. well they wouldnt like the inner city school my kids go to .Most Schools in australia are open plan (not one or two big building like I see the american ones are) ours are low and rambling and have like 20 buildings joined by walk ways etc. All the doors are open here all day long….

    I think that in the warmer less densely populated part of the US we have schools like that as well, especially if they’re less densely populated.

    But it doesn’t work in a place where you have winter temperatures in the single digits for two weeks at a time (NYC), much less any place colder. (So all you from Minnesota can avoid telling me I don’t know about real winters! I know I don’t!)

    It also doesn’t work as well, I think, in an area (again, NYC) where land values are very high due to population pressures.

  56. Yeah, I’m not sure what I did with that first paragraph. Move around the phrase “densely populated” until it makes sense.

  57. For “a woman he knew?” Well there’s the problem! Our school children are not supposed to know any grownups! We work hard to make sure they don’t know any. We don’t post pictures of them, never let them go to the store on their own, and certainly don’t let them talk to strangers. The problems all start with boys talking to women!

  58. For those who are wondering where the money comes from for these security systems, I can tell you that in our district it came from a federal grant. As our superintendant says, “It didn’t cost us anything!”

  59. So our children don’t need to learn discernment, they only need to follow the system. It will protect them.

  60. @Girl Who Loves to talk: our schools in California tend to be the way yours are in Oz (similar climate, no doubt), lots of open buildings – some of the high schools and middle schools have open-air lockers. Unfortunately the “security” solution at some of these has been to ring them with chain link fence 8-(.

  61. Sounds like something our of a sitcom

  62. @Larry Harrelson:
    That reminds me of the time one of my cousins (about 6yo, I recall) was punished in her room for whatever reason. She started with that classic line of thought “if something bad happened to me, then my parents would be sooo sad, they would cry their eyes out and sourly regret they ever punished me…” One thing sort of led to another, and she ended up writing a note saying something like “Help! I’m 6yo, held against my will and retained in this address…”. Somehow, the note “flew” out the window…
    Imagine my aunt’s face when the police arrived! (Fortunately, policemen here are quite sensible, so the man just knocked and politely asked if there was a child there, could he speak to her, please)

  63. “For those who are wondering where the money comes from for these security systems, I can tell you that in our district it came from a federal grant. As our superintendant says, “It didn’t cost us anything!””

    Except that the federal grant costs us all something and the money could have gone to meaningful things that actually improve the quality of education. Or simply not been given at all, thus, cutting the deficit by a tad.

    I highly doubt that there is a federal grant designated solely for putting security systems in school so, by using the money that way, the district took money that they were given to fund education and put in security instead of buying books, buying new computers, upgrading facilities, funding teaching or parapro positions or the myriad of other things that schools actually need. So it DID cost the school district something. Unless this is a very wealthy school district with an overabundance of money, things that this money could have paid for are still needed. Either the school district pays (costing the taxpayers money) or the kids due without (impacting education).

    If it were simply $10,000, that’s not really much in the grand scheme of school budgets. But the security was put in every school in the district. For my, not particularly large, district that would be around $250,000. Money that could easily fund something meaningful.

  64. Stories of the chainlink fences around the school reminded me of my one and only summer camp experience. Because it was surrounded by a very tall fence (at least 7 feet) with barbed wire on the top, we used to joke that it was a concentration camp, not a summer camp (insensitive, I know, but we were 12-14 year olds). We were also not allowed to leave the grounds, even to go to the corner store less than quarter of a mile down the street, without supervision. Being annoyed big city kids used to wandering everywhere on our own, we slipped out anyway. It was a sleepy small town with cherry trees lining the streets, what could possibly happen there?

    Yours truly has the most detentions – six – for violating the “do not leave” order in three weeks I were there, shared with the girl who has now been my best friend for over 15 years.🙂 We used to compete on who will get the most detentions, driving the administration nuts.

  65. @ Pentamom: I agree with your statement of “A discussion on whether that level of security is necessary might be in order, though. For example, students could be told they are allowed to open the door for their own relatives and for teachers/school officials they recognize.”

    I just added the part about how a child’s judgment to let a teacher, another student of the school, or even his parents into the school isn’t any different than an adult’s who’s watching the security monitors. That doesn’t mean though that the child should let anyone in that he feels isn’t harmless, more specifically if he doesn’t know them.

    @ girl who loves to talk: sorry, my bad. I thought you were saying that the school who suspended the boy was right to do so, because of their thought of “what is the point of having a security system, if people don’t follow the security rules” – “and they are right. These systems dont work if people open doors for people, which we often do.”

  66. This made Boing Boing today. Via Free Range Kids.

  67. Sorry for the OT comment, but this

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/video/2011/mar/03/libya-benghazi-traffic-boy-video

    is rather awesome, and I didn’t know where else to post it – 11 year old taking responsibility for directing traffic because no-one else would.

  68. Donna, said:

    “For those who are wondering where the money comes from for these security systems, I can tell you that in our district it came from a federal grant. As our superintendant says, “It didn’t cost us anything!””

    Ha! Ha!
    Our tax dollars are probably going for these kinds of things all over the country.

    My wife’s office is in a middle school in a rural area where there are no real dangers or worries of the wrong people coming in. This school just bought security cameras for the halls and certain classrooms funded by a grant from Uncle Sam. And besides that, the school system also bought a bunch of new computers for people who had computers that were working just fine…And again the money came from a federal grant.

    But, hey!!! They’ve instituted cost cutting measures to cut back on heating bills, and they school system even hired a cost cutting “manager” to plan how to cut costs. Ha! Ha! – and I’m talking about a school system where that middle school I mentioned “forbids” walking or biking to school. Most of the schools in this safe small town do not encourage walking or biking.

  69. Donna – Of course i realize we’re still paying for it. i thought the sarcasm would be obvious. My bad🙂

    We’re in NJ so we get a lot of Homeland Security money that has to be used for security stuff. View Point is correct about the technology, too. The federal stimulus package had millions of dollars specifically for technology.

    By the way, our school board office just got a buzz-in type security system, too. There are NO children at that location. Maybe they’re afraid of mad parents…

  70. Robin – I wasn’t directing my post at you. I got that you didn’t really support this security system.

    I was just ranting because I get tired of the notions that somehow federal government money is free and that because the federal government is willing to give us money to do something we need to take that money and do it even if it’s completely unnecessary. I bet we could cut the deficit by a substantial amount if we’d just stop taking money for things that we don’t need but feel compelled to buy because the government is willing to give us money for them.

  71. Sound almost like the security system I had to navigate when I worked at a nuclear power plant. Every time a worker went through a controlled doorway, he or she had a use an access card. We weren’t allowed to hold the door open for a colleague unless we made sure that person also registered in (coming in on someone else’s entry was called “tailgating”). It takes three times as long to get a job done at a nuclear plant (compared to a gas-burning plant) because of all the security. Whether all this procedure is necessary to keep out terrorists (who probably have other sources for nuke material) or is just “security theater”, I’m not sure. I don’t think public school needs to be as tightly controlled as a nuke plant or even a courthouse. And I definitely think a suspension for the student in question is a gross over-reaction.

  72. All I can say is, Aye, Lenore, Aye.

  73. So OK, let’s imagine that having a rule against opening doors is a good idea. But in my world, the penalty for either intentionally violating, or forgetting, the rule would be a good talking to from a somewhat intimidating principal, not a suspension. That is how unwise acts were handled in my day (the stone age).

  74. “we used to joke that it was a concentration camp, not a summer camp (insensitive, I know, but we were 12-14 year olds). We were also not allowed to leave the grounds, even to go to the corner store less than quarter of a mile down the street, without supervision”

    This just makes my jaw drop. The summer camp I started going to after 6th grade (so, age 11) was at a major university campus (heck, University of IL, Champaign/Urbana) and we had the run of the campus across Champaign/Urbana the entire time we were there. It was a music camp so we had to be at our sessions, and we had to be in our dorm room at a particular time, but it was our responsibility to get ourselves to our sessions (scattered all over campus) and we had plenty of downtime as well. Yeah, I spent most of my downtime in the student union … but I also went off-campus with local friends without notifying anyone as long as I expected to be back before lights-out.

  75. […] Via Lenore Skenazy. Digg it |  reddit |  del.icio.us |  Fark […]

  76. Security systems, locked doors, surveillance, isolation for transgressors… hey… are we talking about an elementary school or the state pen?

  77. If all it takes to get arounda security system is a middle-schooler politely opening a door, then perhaps a re-thinking is in order…

    Or thinking, period.

  78. I have read through the various comments, and it occurs to me that many people don’t realize that the fact that the adult was know to/familiar to the child does not mean that the adult was a) allowed to be in the school or b) had any reasonable business in the school. Do people suppose that the students are made aware of custody issues, for example, that might restrict a ‘familiar’ person from coming to the school?

    Do you allow your children to let everyone ‘familiar’ through your front door?

    I am a teacher, and though most of what appears on this blog makes a great deal of sense, blanket condemnation of the policy make no sense, though I would grant that the punishment seems harsh. And I say seems, because we don’t know if the student had done this many times, and been warned before, or if there was a particular situation that make this action dangerous in this circumstance.

    These security systems seem, to some, to be a knee-jerk reaction to school shootings, but more often school staff has to be wary of situations such as access to a particular child (due to various situations) or limiting access to the school if a person related to a child is considered dangerous. School staff may be warned that a parent is suicidal, that a parent is wanted by the law, that a parent no longer has access to a child… we aren’t just talking about kidnapping. If the school failed to keep these people out of the building, parents would be screaming for our heads. Given the sharp rise in against teachers in recent years, I have to say that knowing that some parents have to be escorted while in the school is reassuring. The school, of course, has to keep confidentiality about situations like these. Having taught for 13 years, I can say that we have cases like this all the time.

    Elementary schools are not prisons. The students are not locked in. Unfortunately, there are some people we need to keep out.

  79. Reading many of the responses I was struck by something. How exactly do these security systems work? How do the students actually get INTO the school? Do they have key cards? Does every individual student get buzzed in? Is there a school employee checking that you belong there at the times classes start? Most of the horrible incidents that have happened at U.S. schools have NOT been stranger incidents but by the students of the schools (Columbine anyone?). What good would a security door have done there? These kids had student IDs and were supposed to be there! What a waste of money. Does anyone here know of any “incidents” in a school caused by a stranger intrusion? I did some google searching and found one story about an attempted abduction at a school, but this seems to be Dr. Phil fodder not a real cause for concern. I think gangs in inner city schools is more of a concern. NON student gang members coming in to a school and causing problems is a concern and something to worry about in some instances, but there are other measures that could be put into place that work as well without the ridiculousness of lock down and suspension for holding a door open! I mean this is middle school, not the airport!

  80. @Kathy (in Quebec) — “Do you allow your children to let everyone ‘familiar’ through your front door?”

    Yes I do.

  81. ***”the student was an even BETTER security system”
    This is very simpleminded logic. The student was a better security system than the adult in the office whose job it is to answer the door-buzz and screen entrants? That child is more aware than the adult of the possible threats made to the school or specific security concerns that would allow the office staff to make informed decisions about who belongs inside that school or not.

  82. While I wholeheartly agree that schools are taking thing overboard, news rarely prints the whole story so remember that. A child remembering someones face is not common sense it’s memory. If kids had huge amounts of common sense, the puppy trick or the I know your mommy ploy wouldn’t work. Kids are smart and have great clarity but they are kids.

  83. @LauraL –Just what was the terrible occurrence that prompted the school to need such prison-like ‘safety’ features?– The Virginia Tech massacre prompted many public buildings and schools to evaluate their needs in the event of a ‘lockdown’. Having a responsible (in legal and terms of capacity) adult at the gateway to the school makes sense in the event of many kinds of emergencies though.

    I agree with hellocommon. Is the child most likely aware if that adult is a newly non-custodial parent following a bitter divorce? Or a recently terminated school-teacher, finally pushed to the point of snapping? If something were to happen such as a fire or weather emergency would that child be available to add that adult’s name to the firemen’s roster of unaccounted?

    If you want your child to learn responsibility and courtesy then do as I do and teach it to them and let the schools focus on academics. Buy him a puppy. A mistake with a puppy means a lot less to me then a mistake at that front door, where it may be my kids who foot the bill for the mistake of yours.

  84. But this presumes this is something that happens on a daily basis – and how would the people buzzing these other people in know if t hey had a weapon or not? It’s still prison.

  85. @LauraL — considering the OBSCENE percentage of Americans that are in, or have been through, prison, I guess they figure they might as well get ’em used to it while they’re young.

    http://usgovinfo.about.com/cs/censusstatistic/a/aainjail.htm

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Incarceration_in_the_United_States

  86. “Is the child most likely aware if that adult is a newly non-custodial parent following a bitter divorce? Or a recently terminated school-teacher, finally pushed to the point of snapping? If something were to happen such as a fire or weather emergency would that child be available to add that adult’s name to the firemen’s roster of unaccounted?”

    Hmmm … the odds of ANY of this happening? next to zero. And the odds of the person manning the buzzer being any better of a mind reader than the child? Zero. The person manning the buzzer may (and that’s a HUGE may) know more information about the teacher or the parent but not that they are there for nefarious purposes. (I’ll note that non-custodial parent does not mean that the parent cannot come see the child; just means that they don’t have physical custody).

    And why are we worried about something that may happen at any one particular school once in a very blue moon? I can think of much better expenditures of my tax money and time of some buzzer answer person than to protect against something that is highly unlikely to occur to start with. And I don’t want my child to go to school in a fortress even if it means that she is minutely safer from an already miniscule risk.

    And let’s be realistic. It truly only makes them minutely safer. A security system with a buzzer is truly unlikely to thwart a crazed former teacher who has been pushed to the brink or a parent with a restraining order looking to kidnap their child. The thing about crazy is that they are usually fairly dedicated to their cause and not easily dissuaded. They’ll find a way to get in if that’s what they really want or just manage whatever havic they want to enact without getting in at all.

  87. @LauraL– Advocating for a more controlled entry does not presuppose any frequency of crisis at all, let alone daily. But your second comment first…A monitored entry system does not intend to weed out the gun-toters from the non-gun-toters, But think about the Virginia Tech shooting for a moment.

    Cho (the shooter) enters a dorm building that used a ‘dumb’ electronic lock system (magnetic key), probably by telling a student that he left his key inside. He shoots and kills 2 people inside and then leaves.

    Police and medics arrive, the campus knows there is some kind of threat, someone has been shot. But there are no protocols for a lockdown, nor any way to control access to the campus buildings

    TWO hours later walks into another building and kills another 30 people.

    Yes it’s a rare occurance, but I can think of no reason why it could happen on a college campus and not an elementary school. I will concede that on a college campus, where most are adults and the comings and goings are much looser, visually approving every entry into every building would not work. But in our public schools it is much easier and (arguably it seems) more necessary due to the immaturity of the larger school population.

    Set this scene at an elementary school and tell me that in the moments after the first bodies were found you would still want your child deciding who should and shouldn’t be allowed in that school building.

    To your first point I agree that this is a rarity, but there are many events that children are ill equiped to deal with that are not. A favorite teacher who was laid-off might be welcomed by your child because he doesn’t appreciate the intracacies of a labor dispute. Even if the teacher is harmless, s/he still doesn’t belong there. A long time neighbor with her hands full gets this courtesy because the child doesn’t know that she has a restraining order. The principle your son knows and loves gets let in because your child doesn’t know he’s being investigated for molesting a student.

    And yes even taken as a whole, these are issues that may present themselves in a large school maybe once or twice a year (just guessing. Similar ‘improper adult access’ incidents have happened in my daughter’s school 6 or 7 times so far this year).

    So it is a question of value. What value does your child get from being allowed to decide who comes and goes in the halls of his classmates? I suspect it is a value greater than zero on whatever scale would measure such a thing. Responsibility is usually a positive influence. What is the cost? The cost is the value of what stands to be lost times the probability that it will be. The value of what is at risk is definitely greater than zero even whittled down by such a tiny multiplier.

    Is your benefit greater than your cost? Can you achieve all or most of that value in a way with less cost? Perhaps a puppy?

    But here’s the thing. Even if you absolutely value the benefit much higher than the cost, your child’s actions have a spill-over cost that falls on the shoulders of everyone else in that building. My daughter doesn’t get any of the benefit from your son’s habit of letting whomever into the building, yet she is bears a roughly equal portion of the risk if your son makes a bad call.

    If you really want your kid to practice opening doors for people then put one on his tree-house. If he lets a bad egg into that then it’s just your family crying.

  88. @Donna– The odds of a parental abduction are not insignificant. About 350,000 of those happen every year. I imagine it would be easier to pull junior out of class early (like I’ve done a hundred times before) or off the playground than it would be to coax him out of his mother’s livingroom (hypothetical, I’m not divorced). That is, unless I have to be viewed by the receptionist before even getting through the door like I do at my daughter’s school. The receptionist who has a list I filled out of everyone my child is allowed to leave the building with. Does your son have that list?

    That receptionist keeps a record of every non-staff/non-student that enters the building, where they are going, and when they leave. If your dedicated crazy does cause a problem that receptionist will have at least a small measure of information to pass along to the appropriate parties. Does your kid, opening the door, take that info down?

    If a visitor is in the school for longer than 30 min. that receptionist tracks him down to see if he needs some help. You want your kids taking on this kind of responsibility? No wonder we’re falling behind as a nation, our kids are playing doorman instead of learning math and science.

    My wife had a slip and fall in our school’s restroom during a school play. She had a compound break and lost 3 pints of blood in one of the lesser used restrooms. 20 minutes after the play let out our school receptionist found her, she was taking the prescribed steps to verify all visitors had left the building. More recently, an elderly woman was similarly found after breaking a hip in a stairwell, the receptionist did not hear from the classroom the lady had said she was going to see so she followed up.

    Yes I acknowledge that the risk is low but the reward is just as low or nearly as low and easily gained in other ways. If I handed you a revolver with 10,000 cylinders and a bullet in one of them, how big a prize would it take to get you to play a little roulette? What if we played with the gun pointed at you child’s face instead of your own?

  89. I don’t believe that the reward is low from not having my child educated in a fortress. I don’t want my child to believe that she is unsafe in the place that she spends most of her waking hours because the fact is that she’s not. Her school is safe – even without a fancy security system that no school in my school district has (THANK GOD!!!!).

    As for your lists. Most parental abductions happen by parents who have visitation rights and simply chose not to return the children. Very few of them are parents who are forbidden to have contact with the children at all. Thus, your list is meaningless. The parent abducting the child has every right to be in the school and will be allowed in whether from a receptionist or a student because he or she is on the approved list.

    You also seem to miss the point that the buzzer and lists simply don’t matter. A crazy person wants to shoot up a school but can’t get in because there is a security system is not going to go home and say “Oh darn. Foiled again.” He’ll shoot up the playground. Although I suppose that you probably want that surrounded by cement walls topped with razor wire.

    I don’t play Russian roulette because there is no negative for not playing. Sure, I won’t get whatever prize you are giving out but since I am happily living without whatever that is now, I don’t imagine I’ll be too heartbroken. However, there is a HUGE negative to my child in treating her as if her life is in danger EVERY SINGLE SECOND OF EVERY SINGLE DAY. I don’t want her to live in fear skulking at her from behind every bush. I want her to be confident and self-assured and to appreciate the world and the people in it for the good that they are 99.9% of the time.

    I also don’t want her to have the mentality of “better safe than sorry.” How boring would that life be? I’d rather she go out and do things that she enjoys even if doing so is not perfectly safe. Whether her desires are backpacking through Europe, volunteering in Africa, rafting through the Grand Canyon, climbing Mt. Everest, driving cross country or simply following her dreams to a career that makes her happy, I don’t want some irrational fear of bogeymen behind every bush holding her back.

    And the more you make your kids afraid of the bogeyman that doesn’t exist, the more danger you actually put them in. A confident, self-assured person is rarely the target of a crime. The fearful and wary person is who they’ll hit.

  90. Donna– A fair point and fairly said. I would just add two bits to it. You say you would have your child avoid the “better safe than sorry” mentality and I appreciate that. But how far does that go?

    I would be the last person to promote a lifestyle that favors only the ‘perfectly safe’. But it is similar idiocy to live a life of risk just for risk’s sake. The rewards of your adventurous list far outweigh the risks and except for Everest I have done all of them, with my family. We were in Uganda in 2005. I just do not see what the value of this particular act is that would balance even a minuscule amount of risk.

    My second point is that your level of risk aversion is a personal choice, as is mine. When the costs (risk) of our actions are fully internalized then for the most part those actions should be nobody else’s business.

    But when you are a member of a community and your (or your child’s) actions impose a cost (risk) on the other members then you must accept that others in the community may value the costs and benefits of that particular freedom differently than you do.

    The proper venue to achieve change is at a school board meeting and if the greater majority is against you on this one then your child (or mine) will learn an equally valuable life lesson. That being a good neighbor means sometimes you don’t get to do everything your heart desires.

  91. I disagree that we should just accept that our children – meaning the children of society – are being raised to be in fear for their lives all the time because that is what the majority wants (I don’t even think that it’s the majority. I think it’s a vocal minority who then bullies the rest with outrageous, very rare “what if” scenarios like you mentioned). It is not good for the children, the parents or society as a whole. I don’t think we need to sit back and passively allow that to happen. If we took your stance, schools in the deep south may still not be integrated since the majority of people in power in the 60’s did not want that to happen. However, we overruled the wants of the majority based on what was in the greater good of society.

    You are correct that being a good neighbor means that I don’t get what I want all the time. However, being a good American means that I stand up and speak when there is something I believe is completely going wrong in this country and seek to change it.

  92. “But it is similar idiocy to live a life of risk just for risk’s sake.”

    I am not living a life of risk for risk sake because there is almost NO risk. I’m simply living life. The chances of your child (or mine) being involved in some school incident that would have been stopped if some kid hadn’t opened the door for someone he knows is so low as to have no manner of computation. Yes, it could happen. Anything you could possibly imagine “could” happen that doesn’t mean that there is a true risk.

    I could worry about terrorist attacks. I do believe that there will probably be another large scale one in the US in my lifetime. However, I don’t think islamic terrorists know where Athens, GA is so my risk of being a victim is below miniscule so I don’t worry about it. I am not living a life of risk for risk sake. I’ve look at the reality of the situation and realized that there is no true risk. Same as I am not living a life of risk for the sake of risk by not having hurricane insurance (when I live 4 hours inland) or earthquake insurance (where there is no measurable seismic activity within more than 1000 miles of my house).

    To me it’s a complete idiocy to worry about risks that have virtually no chance whatsoever of happening and to install 10k security systems to ward them off.

  93. “However, there is a HUGE negative to my child in treating her as if her life is in danger.”

    Donna, in broad terms, I agree with you. A “better safe than sorry” mentality is not healthy, when applied too generally.

    However, what interests me is your equation with the existence of a security system, with treating people as though their lives are in danger, and your description of identifying certain risks, and implementing certain procedures, with “living in fear.”

    I lock my door every night, not because I’m “scared” someone will break in and hurt me, but because it’s the sensible thing to do. As a matter of fact, I’m not the least bit “afraid” that such things will happen — in my neighborhood, a dangerous home invasion by a stranger would be an unpredictable freak occurrence, and it’s something I never, EVER worry about. However, I still lock my door — it just makes sense to promote a more secure environment. In fact, the fact that people lock their doors discourages criminals in the first place.

    There are ways to implement security and safety procedures without promoting “fear,” but simply by maintaining a standard of “prudence.” It all depends how you frame it, and what you teach your kids. My kids go to a school with a security system much like the one described in the OP, and they’ve never shown an ounce of fear — they just know that it’s deemed sensible to set up such procedures. In fact, if you think the procedures aren’t sensible, all the more reason simply to teach your kids that there’s nothing to fear — some people just worry too much. Why should the existence of a security system terrorize your child if *you* are telling them *there’s nothing to worry about?*

    I agree that in any given case, a certain measure may be excessive, unnecessary, and harmfully limiting of freedom and independence. Where I disagree is your seeming equation with security measures and “fear” or a necessary belief that your kids will think their “lives are in danger.”

  94. BTW, here’s where we come a little closer: suspending kids for opening a door in a situation like that does promote fear, because it does promote the “if there is the tiniest violation of this system something evil will swoop in and get you and we must prevent that at all costs” mentality. But simply having the door there needn’t be a source of “fear.” Kids don’t automatically equate “this is safer” with “the alternative is horror, death, or dismemberment” unless that idea is promoted to them.

  95. Donna– You say “To me it’s a complete idiocy to worry about risks that have virtually no chance whatsoever of happening”

    You are only looking at the size of the risk, the probability of it happening. But the cost of your action is a product of this probability and the value you place on the loss should this event occur.

    Consider a lottery that costs a dollar to play and features a 1 in 50million chance of winning $5. It’s a bad game, a few people might still play it but that would be pretty rare. If you up the payout to $10million then people will line up to buy the ticket. The ‘risk’ of winning remained the same.

    But your reasoning suggests that any risk that is sufficiently low should simply be treated as zero.

    A lottery that costs $1 to play and has a 1 in 50m chance of paying out $5 AND a 1 in 50m chance of killing the contestant or his/her child is an even worse game isn’t it? I don’t imagine anyone would pay to play that one, nor even play it if someone else bought their ticket.

    If I increase the payout back to $10m (keep the 1 in 50m chance of tragedy) would you play?

    Your premise is that we should not worry about very low risks no matter what the possible loss may be, like earthquakes in GA. But I know for a fact that the HIGH art museum in Atlanta carries earthquake protection on their insurance and I suspect it costs them about $80 per term to insure the property and contents against earthquake. Your home would cost about 80 cents but it’s probably worth much less to you than even a single Monet is to the city of Atlanta.

    Consider just our nation’s highschools. That’s about 50 million kids. According to the National Crime Victimization Survey each year about 40,000 kids every year are victims of serious violence, involved in a fight, threatened or attacked with a weapon. So the chance of violence these kids face is much closer to 1 in 1250. All by itself a monitored access system would directly prevent only a portion of these events but they appear to deter many.

    Another fallacy you are operating under is that a system like this is only providing benefit when it prevents a bad person from entering the building. I would argue that this is the least important function of this system. Yes, it is the function that has protected my daughter from her grandmother and my brother’s son from his non-custodial mother (who certainly had no right to be anywhere near her son except in a professionally monitored visitation). There is certainly a benefit to have someone who reads the daily security reports each school gets in the position of approving access to my kid. I certainly don’t let any of my daughters classmates know that my mother-in-law is bunked in the head and has been convicted of torture, it’s none of their business. The lady who approves door-buzzes, she knows to keep crazy granny out, and has done so.

    The value of a monitored access is that when that determined crazy or determined parent enters the building as you say it is impossible to stop, it is that monitor who will trigger the lockdown, alert the authorities, coordinate evacuation if needed, and provide crucial information about the nature of the threat to the authorities both at the time and later. The entry guard won’t stop a student from shooting a classmate, but she will be the one who facilitates the lockdown that keeps it from becoming a massacre. She will be the one who can tell the police every non-staff/non-student on site which may catch a crazy before the next attack.

    The National School Safety Center’s report identifies an average of 9 cases of a gunmen entering the school and murdering one or more people within per year over the last 10 years. There are about 120,000 schools. So the odds of it happening in your school is not astronomical, it’s about 1 in 13,000.

    Folic Acid supplements are less likely to prevent a birth defect than even a lousy door watcher at a school is to prevent a shooting. Do you tell the pregnant woman to just ‘spin the wheel; the chances of your child being born deformed is really really low’? Don’t worry about it?

    Treating pink-eye vs. just letting it run is less likely to preserve your eyesight than a school doorman is likely to stop a crime.

    Car accident fatalities are far less common than violence and criminal activity on school property. Serious Injuries that would be prevented by a child car-seat are monumentally rare. Should we stop imprisoning our infants in carseats?

  96. “However, what interests me is your equation with the existence of a security system, with treating people as though their lives are in danger, and your description of identifying certain risks, and implementing certain procedures, with “living in fear.””

    The existance of security system and keeping kids behind locked doors does equal a statement that there is some risk here. It is a statement that we can’t trust that people will not come into schools for nefarious purposes so we must have a security system. I don’t work in a building with daytime door locks and security system. The doors were not installed with such items because there is little risk that someone is going to seek entry who has no business here. The risk is not higher in a school than a public defender’s office with a clientele of exclusively criminals who pretty much hate us.

    “I lock my door every night, not because I’m “scared” someone will break in and hurt me, but because it’s the sensible thing to do. ”

    However, why is a sensible thing to do? If you truly believe that there is no risk that someone is going to break into your house, then locking your door is completely not sensible. But you don’t truly believe that there is no risk or, again, you wouldn’t lock your door. Actually the fact that people lock their doors does not discourage criminals in the least. If they want in the house, they’ll break the window. An alarm system discourages criminals. A dog discourages criminals. Locks do not discourage criminals.

    “My kids go to a school with a security system much like the one described in the OP, and they’ve never shown an ounce of fear — they just know that it’s deemed sensible to set up such procedures”

    But, again, why is it deemed sensible to set up such procedures? The only answer is because there is something to fear from the world outside the school. I’m not saying that kids are shaking in their boots, but there is no way that you can both justify a 10k per school expenditure and still believe that there is nothing to fear by not having one.

  97. “Your premise is that we should not worry about very low risks no matter what the possible loss may be”

    No, my premise is let’s be realistic of the dangers. Life is not 100% safe, cannot possibly be made 100% safe and 100% safety should not be an ideal because it is completely unachievable. Living life on lock down for a miniscule risk is not something that anyone should want to achieve.

    We are talking about the quality of human life, not money, folic acid or pink-eye doctor visits. The High Museum may believe that $80 per term is not too much to spend for insurance that they’ll likely never need because there is no downside to them to having it. It is not a substantial expenditure that impacts the function of the museum. The fact that insurance exists doesn’t impact the enjoyment of the patrons of the museum.

    However, locked down schools have an impact just by existing. First, there is the expenditure which is substantially more than $80 per term. It does take money away from things that are more meaningful for education. Second, there is the perception that having security gives that it is necessary because schools are dangerous. That plays a part on people’s willingness to move to areas impacting employment in the area. Third it fosters this wrong thinking that the world is more dangerous now. We didn’t need security a generation ago so the world must be more dangerous since we do now. Fourth, it impacts the kids belief as to what is normal. Normal now for them is to be under lock and key 24/7. That’s not healthy.

    “Consider just our nation’s highschools. That’s about 50 million kids. According to the National Crime Victimization Survey each year about 40,000 kids every year are victims of serious violence, involved in a fight, threatened or attacked with a weapon. So the chance of violence these kids face is much closer to 1 in 1250. All by itself a monitored access system would directly prevent only a portion of these events but they appear to deter many.”

    However that is a complete fallacy. The vast majority of children who suffer violence in the school do so at the hands of other students, not outsiders. The second largest portion suffer acts of violence at some school event open to the public such as a football games. To get the true risk, you would look exclusively at the number of people who suffer acts of violence while inside the school during school hours in which the building is not open to outsiders that were caused by someone who did not have a right to be inside the building at that time. Even that minutely small number would give you a bogus view because the majority of those incidents happen in either one fell swoop such as a Columbine (although that doesn’t meet the criteria) or happen at a few, predominantly inner city, schools and have no coorelation to the actual risk in most schools througout the country. I do not doubt that there are some schools that really do need security to keep the drug dealers, thieves, gang members, homeless and troublemakers limited to those actually enrolled in school. However, that is not the situation in the vast majority of schools in the country. Let’s not treat quiet suburban schools as if they’re in the middle of cracktown.

    “The value of a monitored access is that when that determined crazy or determined parent enters the building as you say it is impossible to stop, it is that monitor who will trigger the lockdown, alert the authorities, coordinate evacuation if needed, and provide crucial information about the nature of the threat to the authorities both at the time and later. ”

    Except that those things would get triggered anyway. Prior to schools having security, authorities were notified, evacuations were coordinated and crucial information was provided when things occurred. In school districts without security, there are still procedures to do all those things in an emergency. Have we gotten so dumb in the last generation that we now need a 10k system and trained personnel to tell us that a gun-toting bandit in a school is not a good thing and 911 needs to be called?

    And as for child abduction by parents from the classroom, the last time I checked all kids still need to be checked out by the office. The office then calls the classroom and has the child sent to the office. That was a procedure 30 years ago when I was in school and I don’t imagine that it’s changed. A teacher is not going to relinquish control of a child to someone who just shows up in the classroom unannounced to collect the child. So the very same person who is answering buzzers with all their lists of people who can have children, is still going control who leaves the premises with a child, the buzzer is just left out of the loop.

    “Car accident fatalities are far less common than violence and criminal activity on school property. ”

    If true, which I doubt, that is again a fallacy. First, violence and criminal activity includes anything from a fist fight on the playground between 5 year olds and stealing a classmate’s twinkie to Columbine. Let’s not equate typical childhood misbehavior with “violence and criminal activity.” I’m sure there are parts of the US where the level of real violence and criminal activity (beyond fist fights and twinkie thefts) on school property is higher than the level of car fatalities in that same area. However, for the rest of the country, the level of car fatalities is much higher than the level of real school violence and criminal activity.

  98. I didn’t say I believed there was no risk, I said I wasn’t “scared.” That’s exactly the distinction I’m trying to make — recognizing a risk factor and acting against it is not the same as “living in fear” or “believing your life is in danger.” As I said, I’m not saying that these measures are necessary well-advised in a given case, I’m saying that enacting them need not be seen as an inducement for people to be afraid all the time, which is one of the concerns you appear to have about it. It might be a bad idea, but not necessarily because your children will go around being afraid of people invading your home or their school, *just because we keep the doors locked and only let people in under certain conditions.*

    I mean, I’ve lived all my life with the doors getting locked at night, and I’ve not spent my life in fear of burglaries or home invasions. I recognize the possibility, but that is not the same as having a fear that cripples me even to the smallest degree. *That’s* the particular aspect of your argument I’m objecting to, not to your point more generally that such systems are probably not needed in most cases.

  99. Donna– You’re glossing over some pretty important distinctions.

    You made the case that you don’t support monitored entry systems at school because the likelihood of them stopping a crime is very low, primarily because the incidence of school crime is actually very low. Don’t “worry worry about risks that have virtually no chance whatsoever of happening” you said.

    To that premise I made a few points and asked a few questions (which you did not answer).

    There are about 40k instances where a student is subject to dangerous criminal behavior every year in just our nations highschools. One can assume that the adult victims and victims of these crimes occurring in lower schools would inflate the number. As would the small percentage of the 350k parental abductions which occur on school grounds, and the more than 8000 school fires a year (www.nfsa.org/info_items/FAQ-Schools.pdf). Simply having a single record of everyone who is likely inside the building is a valuable asset in the case of any of these incidents.

    But your complaint is with the number of issues the system is likely to prevent, fair enough.

    There are about 50k traffic fatalities every year. About 2500 of them are children. Out of all the traffic accidents the rate of death for children in carseats vs. not in carseats is not dramatically different. Even adults wearing seatbelts are only 50% more likely to survive a wreck than those who don’t (ceteris peribus). Based on your premise, the mere rarity of a traffic fatality which could be prevented by placing the child in a carseat makes the whole notion a wasted enterprise of fear-mongering.

    The odds of that vaccine actually making the difference between you getting Mumps or not is microscopic. Not because they don’t work, but because your odds of encountering a successful mumps infection are small. Do you still get the vaccine? Give in to the fear?

    You refuse to play my lottery which has a 1 in 50,000,000 chance of killing your child (or paying $10m) yet you will spin the wheel at school every day and not even ask them to keep track of who comes in and out of the building?

    Odds of a rampage shooter coming into an average school is about 1 in 13,000 yearly. Even if the only thing a security system like this did was prevent rampage shootings and even if it did its job very poorly it’s still a fair investment.

    Taking that folic acid is far less likely to prevent a birth defect than this system is to prevent a murder or offer some benefit in the event of a crisis. Washing your hands after using a public restroom is far FAR less likely to prevent serious illness than this system is to prevent or offer some benefit in the treatment of a crisis.

    Would you forgo pre-natal nutrician or basic hygine simply because the odds of it providing you a benefit ‘have virtually no chance whatsoever of happening’?

  100. Don’t most incidences of school crime involve people that are already inside the building? Whether it be the bullying of one student by another, a statuatory rape case by a teacher, or one student shooting/hitting/stabbing another. I have never seen the need for the security doors. In large urban areas, maybe. But, in your average American town, not really.

    Personally, I think in urban areas and larger towns, the police should set up precincts in each of the schools. The kids may behave better if there is police presence on site and you would have less worry about crime – both from inside influences and outside. Plus, it saves on having to build another building for the police department.

  101. Teri–You ask, “Don’t most incidences of school crime involve people that are already inside the building?”

    Yes most of them do. And having a human being identify and log every non-student and non-staff who enters would prevent a very small number of crimes in relative terms.

    I would interject that preventing crimes is only a small part the value a system like this provides. But even so. I don’t have any sources for the efficacy of these systems but consider a low-ball exercise.

    For kicks say 1% of crimes occurring at schools involves someone there without permission. And suppose even after visually inspecting and verifying the purpose of every visitor, a monitored access point only stops 10% of these criminals from getting in or otherwise frustrates their criminal plans.

    Based on “Indicators of School Crime and Safety, 2000 (nces.ed.gov/pubs2001/2001017.pdf) That would prevent about 1500 violent crimes at school against teachers and 12-18 yr old students each year (there are about 1.5 million such crimes per year).

    I think I have discovered the ‘defect’ in my logic that makes me so unconvincing to people like Donna. Donna and LauraL are absolutely right that the odds of something bad happening at school to their kids is microscopic. The odds them falling victim to violence at school is 1 in 50, but higher than 1 in 200 if we only consider seriously violent crimes (these numbers hod pretty steady regardless of rural, urban, or sub-urban schools).

    And as you bring up, the odds are even more remote of their children being harmed by one of the even smaller pool of criminals this system is designed to stop. So remote that in terms of risk to their child, it doesn’t really matter if their child’s behavior raises that risk by some minuscule portion, the risk to their individual child is still negligible.

    Which would be fine if their kids were the only ones there. But when there is 500 to 2000 students attending that school, even tiny tiny tiny additions to marginal risk result in real people getting hurt who otherwise wouldn’t have. If the number of violent attacks at the school in Donna-town is raised from 1.1/yr to 1.3/yr it’s still unlikely to effect her family, but over the span of 5 years, that’s one more kid at that school getting beat up, shot, or raped who otherwise wouldn’t have.

    My defective logic tells me that my child would be just as well off letting an adult ‘ carbon-based security system’ open the door and focus a little more on her spelling. Would be just as well off learning that “’cause I want to” is not a proper reason to break the rules.

    Check this: http://www.9wsyr.com/news/local/story/Syracuse-man-arraigned-on-groping-burglary-charges/3MyRUBpZN0yF3QKGo5R_gw.cspx

    >>>None of the school’s security cameras caught the intruder as he walked into one first-grade classroom around 10:30 a.m. and fondled a teacher…Police say [he] entered the school by avoiding the main entrance and, thus, is not recorded on any surveillance cameras….McKinley-Brighton Elementary School only has this one surveillance camera, which is located at the school’s front door…<<>>”And that’s one of the things that’s really hard to control. You have 400 or so students. We try to talk to them about don’t open the door,” said Syracuse City School District Superintendant Dan Lowengard.<<<

    I think Mr. Lowengard could break them of the habit by expelling a few of them.

  102. “As the skipping rope hit the pavement, so did the ball. As the rope curved over the head of the jumping child, the child with the ball caught the ball. Down came the ropes. Down came the balls. Over and over again. Up. Down. All in rhythm. All identical. Like the houses. Like the paths. Like the flowers.”

    I’ve often wondered how in the world such a dismal place Madame L’Engle envisioned could every come to be … I’m sad to say I’m beginning to understand all to well.

  103. […] Click here to read Student Suspended for Opening Door. […]

  104. It’s simply amazing how zero-tolerance policy has trumped common sense.

  105. […] is clear proof that the schools are generating a generation of stupidity.  Apparently the courteous act of opening a door can get a kid suspended.  This is just stupid.  Yes, the school just installed an expensive secruity system and having a […]

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