Take mea­sures to make schools safer in S. Florida

Sun Sentinel Broward Edition - - VOICES & OPINION - By Mary­beth Bauer

Run to the door. Dou­ble check that it’s locked. Pull the shade down. Turn off the lights. Shove your pet­ri­fied stu­dents into one small cor­ner of the room. And­wait.

Wait for re­prieve? Wait for the sound of gun­shots to ring out down the hall­way? You’re not sure. The only thing you knowis that 10 min­utes ago youwere teach­ing es­say struc­ture and nowyou’re hud­dled in a cor­ner in the dark­ness with 32 ninth-graders. You lis­ten to your own breath­ing and their muf­fled sobs, won­der­ing if this is howyou’ll spend the last 10 min­utes of your life. You hear your­self whis­per, “Lis­ten, no mat­ter what youmay hear in the next few min­utes, you have to try not to scream.”

This is life in the Amer­i­can class­room, even in beau­ti­ful Boca Ra­ton. Thiswas life re­cently, whenwe flew into a code red and the­woman on the PA sys­tem said with a shak­ing voice, “This is not a drill.” It­was life to­day and yes­ter­day, as an un­known per­son sent text mes­sages and posted on In­sta­gram ames­sage im­ply­ing they­would carry out a school shoot­ing. Even though no onewas in­jured in ei­ther event, and thoughmy ad­min­is­tra­tors do all they can to keep us safe, we live in aworld where for many, the ring­ing out of gun­shots down a school hall­way is the last sound they’ll ever hear.

I do not posit to knowthe so­lu­tion to Amer­ica’s mass shoot­ing epi­demic, whether it be gun con­trol laws, bet­ter men­tal health care re­sources, or an­other an­swer. How­ever, I do knowwhat is not be­ing done— and what could be done bet­ter— in Palm Beach County.

As a teacher, it con­cerns me that the doors at my school only lock only fromthe out­side, mean­ing in a shooter sit­u­a­tion, if a door isn’t locked, a teacher must open his or her door to make sure stu­dents are se­cure. This is a huge safety is­sue, and could be eas­ily fixed by the main­te­nance staff that is al­ready in place. Ifwe sim­ply re­place the locks so they can also be locked in­ter­nally, we­would re­duce the risk should a shoot­ing oc­cur.

In ad­di­tion, over­crowd­ing of Palm Beach County schools con­trib­utes to po­ten­tial risk. My sec­ond hour class has 32 stu­dents and 26 desks; this is an epi­demic district-wide. Hav­ing stu­dents sit­ting in the aisles and on the floor poses an enor­mous risk in the even­twe should need to evac­u­ate. God for­bid our stu­dents, like so many stu­dents be­fore them, should have to run. They­would be tram­pling each other to get through the door, caus­ing con­ges­tion and more op­por­tu­nity for a shooter to strike.

Th­ese sim­ple fixes are ig­nored by the district. Though I can sadly do lit­tle to pre­vent a school shoot­ing, I can usemy voice to draw at­ten­tion to th­ese is­sues. Per­haps th­ese things seem like small is­sues now, but should tragedy strike they will be­come hor­rific, life-al­ter­ing is­sues, and it will be too lit­tle, too late.

Mary­beth Bauer is a res­i­dent of Co­conut Creek and an English teacher at Boca Ra­ton Com­mu­ni­tyHigh School.

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