Central View: School safety: Adapting lessons from the past
Times change. Today, local school boards must concern themselves with school-safety issues as never before. Fifty years ago during the Cold war, keeping our nuclear weapons from being stolen or sabotaged were the big concerns. In the early 1960s, this writer spent three years on a U.S./NATO Special Security Team (SST), working to secure our nuclear weapons stored in West Germany, the Netherlands, and Denmark. Can some of yesterday’s successful methods be adapted for today’s school safety?
Our nukes were stored in igloos inside an Exclusion Area which was surrounded by a chain-link fence topped with razor-band wire. Only U.S. personnel were allowed inside the Exclusion Area Some of them were armed. For this analogy, let’s say the classrooms are the Exclusion Area.
The Administrative Area, containing the detachment headquarters, a mess hall and some tool sheds, surrounded the Exclusion Area. Another chain-link fence topped with razor-band wire protected the Administrative Area. With proper ID and authorization, officials from the host nations were allowed inside the Administrative Area.
The entire facility was surrounded by yet another chain-link fence topped by razor-band wire. This outer ring had a vehicular gate to allow U.S. military vehicles inside the outer ring to deliver food and other supplies inside the Administrative Area.
Outside the outer ring, was an infantry platoon provided by the host nation. The infantry platoon checked out any vehicles that came near and demanded identification from anyone: drivers, pedestrians, bikers, etc. Sometimes, the infantry platoon patrolled with a well-trained, but mean-looking, German Shepherd.
Not far away, and on 30-minute alert, were the remaining platoons of the on-duty infantry company. In that same location, on one-hour alert was the rest of the battalion from which the infantry company came. Unless, there was an emergency at the storage site, the on-duty infantry battalion was free to pursue its normal training activities.
While such elaborate arrangements would be way too expensive for the typical American public school, it should be noted that the U.S. never lost any nuclear weapons to theft or sabotage. But local school boards might consider fencing around the entire school zone, only interrupted by a vehicular gate and a pedestrian gate. They might want to fence in the parking lot where vehicles can be inspected and also have a special area set aside for the inspection of student backpacks. A metal detector at a single pedestrian entrance operated by trained staff seems essential. Except for a few weapons-trained staff members, the entire zone should be marked as: “Weapons Free.” Retired law enforcement and retired military volunteers could be recruited to patrol the grounds and to help out during the morning and evening rush periods.
Granted, the mentally unhinged will find some location to attack. But if our schools will take just a few of the steps learned from our Cold War successes, the crazies are far less likely to attack our schools. Yes, nuclear weapons security is important. But is the protection of our children any less important?
Irksome? Yes. Expensive? Yes. Do some of these measures violate the 1st and 4th Amendments? Probably. But that is not nearly as traumatic as sending a child off to school who never returns.
Nationally syndicated columnist, William Hamilton, is a laureate of the Oklahoma Journalism Hall of Fame, the Nebraska Aviation Hall of Fame, the Colorado Aviation Hall of Fame, the Oklahoma University Army ROTC Wall of Fame, and was a recipient of the University of Nebraska 2015 Alumni Achievement Award. Dr. Hamilton is the author of “The Wit and Wisdom of William Hamilton: The Sage of Sheepdog Hill.”
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