The 14th of February is a poignant day of love and caring in the secular calendar. In South Florida especially it now has a very different meaning for students, first responders and parents who send their kids to school every day to hopefully learn and grow.
The 14th of February now is just a date on the calendar that forcefully reminds us of the 17 innocent souls taken from this world by a cowardly act of hate and wanton destruction at the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.
This has not only tragically impacted families who, for the last year, have woken up each day reliving the pain, fear, and void. The nightmare is stuck in our hearts and minds every day and the pain is still very much palpable. It reverberates further to other parents, students, first responders and community leadership who ask how can we ensure this never gets repeated again. Have we learned and made real changes after this heinous attack or are we still allowing our kids to be potential lambs to the slaughter by active killers, whatever their motives?
We can never go back, but we must move forward an increase in common sense and proven measures to keep innocent lives safe.
Having dealt firsthand with Parkland families, local law enforcement, Jewish community, and city leadership, I know the pain and concern have certainly not dissipated. A strong and vocal minority of parents & students have taken effective and powerful efforts to increase physical security at schools along with working on legislation locally and even all the way to the Oval Office.
As the director of The CSO, our organization gauges real progress by physical security improvements and protocols in place that is practical, measured and drilled frequently. A lot of progress has been made despite a lot of politics, rhetoric and even a change of local Sheriff. That might make some people feel satisfied, however, a lot more action has to be taken for real security to be in place. A year has passed and we should not be waiting for the next act of violence. Shockingly, some sites still seem to be.
Professionally, I am asked if the Parkland shooting was preventable. I do believe that the 4 main components of Department of Homeland Security protocols on security were not put to real effect that day. They are Deterrence, Detection, Delaying & Defending. I also know that these can be put in place within 36 hours from site assessments to staff and student training at any school or site.
While many argue about the countless solutions, I turn to 8 practical steps succinctly promoted by Andy Pollack who lost his daughter Meadow, of blessed memory, during the Parkland School shooting. This lucid plan is very similar to CSO basic action plan for Jewish schools and facilities that we have promoted & taught for many years. It’s a critical starting point and all school administrators and parents must collaborate to make it happen.
The Eight Point Plan from Children’s Lives and School Safety (CLASS) is:
- Secure the Perimeter – Ensure a monitor perimeter with gates or a fence to deter and detect a potential intruder.
- Control the flow – Single or limited points of entry and multiple egresses for a quick and safe emergency exit.
- Protect the Interior – Each school should have a School Resource Officer (SRO) or vetted, trained and licensed security officers.
- Develop School Safety volunteer network – in the event of an incident, have an ability to mobilize parents of the school to augment regular onsite security and staff to support safety efforts.
- Increase Parental Communication – easy communication system to notify parents of evacuation or lockdown emergency.
- Appoint a District School Safety Specialist – point of contact to ensure school safety, open communications and oversight of progress of school security upgrades.
- Increase Mental Health Services – Mental Health Training for staff to identify and counseling opportunities for students and staff.
- Establish a School Safety Hotline – ability to receive anonymous calls, text, and emails about potential threats within a school.
CSO can and does help facilitate this effort every day. It does not cost a large amount of money and the price to pay if Gd forbid these lifesaving protocols are not in place is tragically high.
Let’s be proactive, not reactive and make real change in keeping our schools and community sites safer.
As Andy Pollack says, “Let’s fix it”. It really is as simple as that.