You don’t need me to tell you about how school shootings have become more prominent in news coverage lately. That’s certainly led to an increased focus and much more spending on school safety apparatus in districts across the nation and beyond.
That’s why I was dumbfounded when I came across a handwritten sign on the front door of a school recently that said in large black letters, “This Door is Open.” The sign was on the door to tell parents and others coming to the school that they didn’t need to be buzzed in to get to their conferences with their children’s teachers, so it was done with good intentions. It just struck me as unusual execution.
Although deaths of students and assaults on them at schools have gone way down since their peak in the 1990s because of increased awareness, new equipment and more formal safety procedures, public awareness of school shootings is way up in recent years. So, while the danger at and around schools may be less, the execution of school safety plans is much more stringent than it’s ever been in the past. That’s what makes this cavalier attitude to safety even more surprising.
Staff members were inside the building as usual when the “This Door is Open” sign was posted, so maybe the sign was a way of freeing them up to leave early or complete other tasks and not have to be focused on signing in visitors to the school or push the access control buzzer on that particular day. I just feel there had to be a better way to get the sentiment across that it’s OK to come into the school if you’re there for a parent-teacher conference or a safer way to grant parents access to the school without broadcasting that the door was open and anyone could enter whenever they wanted.
That’s especially true when you consider most teachers—and many of the students waiting to be picked up by their parents—were in the building at the time. And, of course, parents were all over the building meeting with the teachers, which is why “This Door is Open” in the first place.
It’s sad that was my first thought when I saw the sign, and I’m probably the only one or at least in the minority when it comes to this mentality, but it’s all I could think of when I saw it. Truth be told, no card access or buzzer system is going to keep someone out who’s on a mission to enter a school or office building and do harm to someone or many people, but that doesn’t mean school officials shouldn’t take every precaution to prevent or limit the possibility.
As I wrote recently about the Boston Marathon, we live in an ever-more-dangerous world and if that means someone has to check our bags at the airport or make sure we’re supposed to be coming into a building to help limit the risk of danger, I’m all for it. Too often, people are focused on the quick and easy solution and getting from Point A to Point B as quickly as possible, when what they should be thinking about is getting to their destinations as safely as possible.
Is it really that hard to sign your name on a piece of paper or show your license to a receptionist? Why do school officials ask parents to fill out so much paperwork at the beginning of the year if they’re going to let anyone into the school anyway?
Again, I know this sign was posted as a convenience to parents and visitors had to be close to the door to read it and actually know “This Door is Open” but that’s beyond the point. A decade or two ago, that sign was a good idea. These days, it’s only inviting problems. I’m happy to report no security or safety issues this time around but that doesn’t mean someone looking for an opportunity to enter that school won’t wait for the next time he or she sees a handwritten sign and make the most of the situation. Why would anyone want to invite that possibility?
Maybe I’ve become overly paranoid in the three years since the Boston Marathon bombings in 2013, but I prefer to think of it as more diligent and careful. What do you think?