School safety has been subjected to intense scrutiny over the past month following the nationally covered Sandy Hook Elementary School shootings in Connecticut. Even closer to home, the abduction of a 5-year old girl from Bryant Elementary School in West Philly due to a lapse in security protocol two weeks ago.
CEO of the National Rifle Association, Wayne LaPierre said in a press-conference following the Sandy Hook shooting, recommended arming all schools with a guard mentioning, “”The only way — the only way — to stop a monster from killing our kids is to be personally involved and invested in a plan for protection.”
We disagree with this approach.
We know that SLA students feel safe during a school day. We attribute this to an intensive interview process and establishing a sense of community and student-teacher relationships through measures like advisory, as well as the area where the school is located. We feel accountable for the people around us. It’s stated in the policy of the School District that weapons are not allowed, but since we don’t rely on a metal detector to enforce this, we go on the honor code and common respect.
In fact, SLA is the only high school in the Philadelphia School District that does not use metal detectors upon entrance into the building, something Principal Lehmann demanded when founding the school. It adds to the sense of comfort that most feel within the walls of the school. It is the hope that the respect for the school and for those inside of it will curb the potential for someone to bring in a weapon.
There isn’t really any way to know whether people bring weapons into the school, but there has never been an incident with a gun during the 7 years SLA has been around. SLA attracts students from all over the city, many from neighborhoods they may not feel safe coming and going to. This could be a reason that someone might bring a weapon to feel more secure.
We understand the reasons for fear. The possibility of the presence of weapons is always there. But our research revealed that this fear is not exactly rational.
According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention report on school-associated student violence, homicide is the leading cause of death for people aged 5-18. However, less than 1% of the deaths from July 1999 to June 2004 were linked to schools.
What’s more, a report from the U.S. Department of Education/Secret Service showed that the odds of a student getting into a fight, 1 in 7, were in sharp contrast to those of a student dying by homicide in school, 1 in 1,000,000.
To contrast, from the same time frame there were 161 reported homicides for people under 17 in Philadelphia.
We want to value SLA as the safe place it has always been, and if we are worried about violence we should instead focus on what’s happening in our city every day.
Unsigned editorials are written and approved by the SLAMedia Editorial Staff. They do not reflect the opinion of Science Leadership Academy and its employees.