After September 11th, there were many security precautions and procedures put into place to make our shell-shocked nation feel like a safer place. Many of them were successful and are still in place today. Other policies worked out better on paper. We all remember the stories that hit the news of these new policies being taken to the extreme. The woman being forced to drink her own breast milk, old ladies in wheel chairs forced through the indignity of full body searches, and from these experiences the policies were examined and adjusted, humanity was preserved.
It comes as no surprise that after a gunman opened fire in Sandy Hook Elementary School last December that schools across the nation would be reviewing their safety procedures, our school being no exception. Upon return from the Holiday Break, the following new Drop-Off and Pick-Up procedures have been put into place.
1) Parents are no longer allowed to accompany their child(ren) into the lobby of the school.
2) Parents are encouraged to use the car-line to drop off and pick up at the back of the school.
3) A buzzer has been put into place should a parent have need of entry into the school.
When I first heard of the changes, I was not concerned. I usually walk around to the back of the school to pick my child up any way. There were mutterings from other parents, but I figured give a week or so to adjust and the kinks would work their way out. Just give it time. We as parents want the same thing as school administrators. We want to feel confident in the safety of our children when they leave the security of our arms. We love our teachers and want them to have a safe place to work and nurture our children. We want the secretaries in the office to never have to face a gunman in the eye. We all want or school to be a safe place.
Well, after the first week, I can say that things as written are not working. Or maybe they are, it just depends from whose point of view you are looking. The staff is carrying out the policy as written. Parents are forming long lines of cars in all directions waiting up to an hour to pick up their children. The school secretary is guarding the door to ensure that no one enters and to direct the influx of parents on foot around to the back of the school where the children are being held awaiting pick-up.
There are a few problems that seem to be growing out of the new procedure, mainly in the afternoon at pick-up. First, who wants to wait in line for an hour to pick up their child from school? The exhaust fumes from idling cars are practically visible as I push my stroller down the street. I’ve seen at least one vehicle drive the wrong way down the street to get around the car line and on his way. I don’t know if the intersection was blocked but I can see a potential for danger there. Second, if you are walking up to pick up your child, there is no sidewalk to connect the front of the school to the back of the school where the holding area is. This leaves us the option of either walking against traffic through the car line, or walking through the school grounds themselves. The solution here is simple, put in a sidewalk.
There is another problem growing that is much deeper and if allowed to continue may be much harder to remedy. Our school was a vibrant and thriving learning environment that encouraged parent participation. We were encouraged to volunteer in the classroom; we were invited to come in for breakfast and lunch with our children. Volunteering in the workroom topped our teachers’ wish-lists every year. Now staff that were once friendly and outgoing treat us as if they’ve never seen us before, and as if we are about to storm the school.
When and why did the parents become the bad-guy? Don’t we all want the same thing? With this new policy, the door has been slammed shut in our face. We are left out in the cold befuddled, bewildered and betrayed. The faces I’ve seen and the parents I’ve talked to are hurt and angry. They no longer want to volunteer in a place where they no longer feel welcomed.
What message are we sending to our children? Is this what we want our kids to take away from the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary? Trust no one. Not even Mom and Dad, nor your best friend’s Mom and Dad? Is this the culture that we want our children to grow up in? A culture of anxiety and mistrust of the people and the world around them is no way to live a life. There has to be another way.
The morale of our school is plummeting. We need to work together, parents alongside administrators in a collaborative effort to put safety first, while still maintaining what made our school so great to begin with. Please, don’t shut us out. We had a great school. I don’t want that sentence to be in the past tense.