Keeping Schools Safer Without Gun-Free Zones or More Guns

While Democrats and Republicans debate whether it is wiser to have fewer guns or more guns in schools to keep students safe, an Indiana school official is fighting what so far seems to be a losing battle to get the Hoosier State’s Legislature to help educators lock down, alert police and fight back when students are attacked by gunmen in their classrooms.

Emotionally, it is hard to believe that Dr. Paula Maurer, the superintendent of the Southwestern Consolidated Schools in Shelbyville, Ind., is having such a problem with this quest.

However, David Muhlhausen, a research fellow at the Heritage Foundation, said it could be that Indiana legislators’ frugality is at the very least an understandable choice.

The FBI did put the people who run America’s schools on notice in 2013. Teachers and building principals bear a large part of the responsibility for keeping the students in their classrooms safe.

Indiana lawmakers might not want to believe it, but the FBI’s statistics show school officials have no choice. If someone walks into classrooms and opens fire, it could be nine long minutes before police arrive. That means teachers and students are on their own as each second ticks by and each round is locked and loaded into the chamber of a killer’s weapon.

“I think that Newtown, Sandy Hook, really made people understand, made us all understand this could happen to us," Maurer told Fox 59-TV. “Now is the time to do something about it. We have some answers. We have the technology. We have ways to make our kids safer and we have to do it.”

Maurer will use her district’s Southwestern High School as an example when she attempts to teach state legislators what should be happening in all Indiana schools.

Thanks to a grant from the Indiana Sheriffs' Association, and a local security company, Southwestern High is outfitted with $400,000 in the latest in security technology.

Every teacher wears a key fob they can use to report an emergency to the Shelby County Sheriff’s Office faster than they could by calling 911. The key fob also immediately activates the school’s security system and teachers are instructed to immediately get their students behind classroom doors that automatically lock.

Once inside the classroom, which when the school is under attack doubles as a panic room, teachers are able to communicate with the outside world on a secure line.

Once a teacher sounds the alarm on a key fob, the attacker is also immediately tracked by surveillance cameras and sensors throughout the building.

“We don't have to wait till the incident really is about over with, which is what was happening before,” said Maurer. “Now they have instantaneous information about the perpetrator, about where that person is. And (deputies) can begin doing countermeasures immediately. They don’t have to wait till they get here.”

Mason Wooldridge, the co-founder of Our Kids Deserve It, a group that works to promote what many might consider aggressive school safety standards, believes following the attacks at Sandy Hook Elementary and Umpqua Community College the need to prepare school officials is more urgent than ever.

“If Sandy Hook Elementary or the college in Oregon had what Indiana is promoting in their schools, nobody would have died,” he said.

Why would Maurer even have to ask for state legislative help? Every parent wants his or her child protected like this, right?

Senate Bill 491, which would only study new security technology for Indiana schools, died for lack of support in the Indiana Statehouse in March 2015.

Maurer said a new bill would be introduced in the 2016 legislative session.

“My hope is that there is never another child ever hurt by violence in a school again,” said Maurer. “It’s here. It’s now. We’ve gotta do it. Now is the time.”

Is it really? The Heritage Foundation’s Muhlhausen pointed out the Southwestern High School plan was really a no-brainer since Maurer’s school district (and her taxpayers) didn’t have to invest a dime to make it happen.

But when the Indiana legislature starting looking at the wisdom of spending perhaps millions of dollars statewide, they flinched. After all, as much play as the bloodshed gets in the media when massacres happen, mass murder in schools is, as Muhlhausen put it, “a low probability event.”

Because of that, Muhlhausen told the Daily Signal, it is probably unlikely that local and/or state officials are going to pony up the kind of cash it would take to make every school as safe as Southwestern High.

“They’re going to do the calculus and, you know, the only time it’s worth spending that kind of money is after the fact, and that’s very unfortunate.”