Congress & School Boards Beef Up Their Security, But Not For Kids

Posted by on January 13, 2011

Shoot a kid in school, and school safety budgets get cut.  But when the shooting is at school board members or elected officials, one of the first discussions is the need for greater security measures.

I have watched closely the reactions to December’s shooting at school board members in a Florida school district and now the shooting at a Congressional event in Arizona.  The incidents are unquestionably ones for concern and warrant a review of security and other preparedness measures.

What caught my eye, though, is how quickly many “leaders” actually act on enhancing security measures, and treat the whole issue of security with more seriousness, when they are the ones who are suddenly personally at potential risk.

In the weeks following the Florida school board shooting, school boards across the nation raced to install metal detectors in their board meeting rooms before their next meetings.  Headlines rang out:

Similar headlines have popped up repeatedly after the horrific shooting in Tucson, Arizona, at a neighborhood Congressional street corner meeting:

Should school boards assess and appropriately upgrade awareness, along with security and preparedness measures, for their board meetings?  Certainly.

Should Congress review security measures for its members?  Certainly.

But what intrigues me is not that these leaders reevaluate their security measures, but how quickly they do so with little-to-no hesitation.  There also seems to be little-to-no concern about budgets or other excuses they give when they try to justify cutting funding for security in schools.

We have well documented the trend of school security budget cuts in recent years.  And in many school boards and in Congress, nobody really seems to give a damn about putting school safety first on the chopping block when budget cuts loom. 

In fact, one school board member recently told me with a serious face, “We don’t have a violence problem.  We have a budget problem.”  I hope he crossed his fingers and knocked on some wood after letting that message fly off his lips.

As a well-respected college professor of public administration told me many, many years ago: “Priorities are shown in budgets, not in rhetoric.”

Given what I have seen in the past month, I would add to that statement: “And security gets acted upon much faster when the threat hits closer to home to those who control the budgets.”

Ken Trump

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