January 8, 2024

Nick Covington: Iowa’s vision of the future: Down the barrel of a gun

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Nick Covington is a parent and teacher who lives near Perry High School, the scene of the latest school shooting. He wrote this piece for Bleeding Heartland. 


Even as the scene in Perry was being investigated, predictable responses and vicious rumors flooded social media. Among the most common was a renewed call for “hardening” schools as potential sites of gun violence, which by various accounts can mean controlling access to a single entry point, installing bulletproof glass and metal detectors, hiring armed guards, arming teachers, or all of the above.

We’ve been talking about hardening the target for a while.

But the security-industrial complex of school hardening goes back a quarter-century to Columbine High School. As any student, parent, and school worker can attest, in the wake of the Columbine mass shooting in 1999, schools made significant changes to building accessibility and security protocols. A legion of private vendors, contractors, and consultants also emerged to sell districts, school leaders, and parents on any number of products and services: security cameras, School Resource Officers and private security guards, lockdown drills, lockdown shades, classroom door locks and emergency supplies, bulletproof backpack inserts, tourniquet and bleed control kits, “ALICE training,” and so on.

All of those measures were intended to reduce the likelihood and extent of gun violence at school; to prevent another Columbine from ever happening.

Yet there have been 394 school shootings since Columbine, impacting more than 360,000 students who have experienced gun violence at school. It defies reality to argue that schools haven’t undergone significant hardening since Columbine, and it misses the point that schools have become safer, more secure places at the same time school shootings have become more numerous and deadly.

Gun violence doesn’t originate at the schoolhouse door, and it won’t be solved there. Our policy making and political rhetoric urgently need to reflect that reality. Instead, elected officials have made communities less safe by under-funding social spending and school programming that contributes to community health and safety while expanding access and availability of firearms.

Read the full piece here. 

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