- By Michael Dorn
- June 1st, 2005
I understand how educators can sometimes lump searches of students for weapons into other routine administrative duties and place themselves and others in extreme danger. What I don’t understand is how public school systems and private schools can continue to fail to provide proper direction and guidance on this issue after so many students, teachers, school administrators and others have been injured, killed and taken hostage when attempts by school officials to recover weapons from students have turned into disaster.
Serving as a cop for two decades gives me a very different view of people than most school officials. Just as they understand many issues relating to curriculum as a matter of their basic personality, working in a field where people regularly tried to attack me with guns, knives and other weapons afforded me an opportunity to ingrain certain safety habits into my everyday lifestyle. And, though fewer than one in 1,000 people I interacted with in my work ever had any desire to harm me, the few who did would have surely taken my life had I allowed them to do so. The difficulty is, cop killers don’t wear label on their forehead that saysI am going to kill you. Among the people who tried to kill me were a woman armed with a bayonet, a 10-year-old boy, a high school student with no criminal record or disciplinary record and a football player from our local Catholic school. An Atlanta police detective is forever confined to a wheelchair because of a gunshot wound inflicted by a 13-year-old student. A 12-year-old shot at a school resource officer in Arkansas a few years ago, and a 67-year-old mentally ill grandmother tried to pull a gun on three of my school district police officers. There is no viable profile of a cop killer or a student who will kill an educator. There are, however, profiles of situations where people die when they mishandle dangerous situations, like a report that a student has a gun in their book bag.
A number of school officials have been shot, stabbed and taken hostage by students that likewise are not wearing a big warning sign. There have also been dozens of innocent students who have been shot and killed because teachers and administrators failed to recover weapons when they conducted ineffective searches. In one particularly tragic case, a first-grade student was allowed to die when a teacher who did not know any better recovered a knife from another student but failed to recover the loaded handgun that he was also carrying. It is a shame when a school system fails to provide proper direction for teachers, bus drivers and administrators for a type of situation that has so often resulted in death and devastation when employees attempt to perform duties they are not trained or equipped to do.
The administrators I spoke with in Indiana had already discussed the manner in which they recovered a loaded gun from a student after they had acted. They inherently began to question their own actions and realized that their course of action might not have been the best one. Unfortunately, there will still be those in the field of education who will press on acting in a manner that is 25 years behind the times without considering that there may be a better way. Tragically, they will sometimes contribute to the injuries and deaths of innocent people, as well as causing their own demise. Searching a student for weapons is a deadly game of Russian Roulette, with innocent people often paying the price for this dangerous practice along with those who chose to gamble with the lives of others.
Michael Dorn serves as the executive director for Safe Havens International, Inc., an IRS-approved, nonprofit safety center. He has authored and co-authored more than 20 books on campus safety. He can be reached through the Safe Havens website at www.safehavensinternational.org.