Overreaction in Trumansburg Schools
Yesterday afternoon, the Trumansburg Schools issued the following press release:
“In conjunction with New York State and Trumansburg police, the Trumansburg Fire Department and TST BOCES officials, student and visitor search and access procedures were developed this afternoon. Tomorrow morning, Friday, April 25, any and all students and adult visitors other than Trumansburg Central School District employees will be searched prior to gaining access to any school building while school is in session.
Beginning Monday, April 28, the district will indefinitely be in a “lockout” mode. While students and visitors will not be searched daily and will be allowed access through designated entry points at each building at the opening of school each morning, there may be randomly conducted searches throughout the remainder of the school year. After first bell, each building will have a single point of access for the remainder of the school day. All adult visitors will be asked to show picture ID such as a NYS driver’s license. The incident continues to be investigated by state and local police.”
I want to say first that I appreciate our the quality of our schools, and the dedication with which the teachers and administration members of the schools work to provide a healthy, safe environment in which our children can learn.
But, as I read and think about this new policy, it seems like an over-reaction to me. Of course, I don’t have all the information about what’s gone on in the schools. I don’t know what the police know. So, if I’m missing something obvious in what I’m about to say, please correct me.
Last night, the bags of parents attending an informational meeting about the bomb threats were searched before the parents were allowed to enter. Why? Were they suspected of preparing to launch an attack during the meeting?
My oldest son is a first-grader in the elementary school. Will he be searched tomorrow? Why? The threatening notes and firecracker were found in the middle school on more than one occasion. No elementary school student would have been able to access the middle school – not even an enterprising fourth grader.
I suppose it is possible that a middle school student might come up with a nefarious plot to give a firecracker or even a weapon of some sort on a younger brother or sister, even a kindergartener, and then attempt to meet that sibling on the playground to get the weapon. That might take place, but it seems extremely unlikely and an obviously risky ploy. It doesn’t seem worth a permanent “lockout” policy at the elementary school.
Also, the search of visiting adults, with the requirement of photo IDs, seems completely unrelated to the actual threat. Given the nature of the firecracker device that was found, it doesn’t seem to me that there’s any evidence of an adult working to help a middle school student plan a violent attack. The idea of an adult visiting the elementary school being suspected of bringing a weapon that would then somehow be transfered to the middle school seems extremely far-fetched.
What good does requiring adults to have drivers licenses to visit the schools do? Is there a reason to suspect that there is an adult who cannot drive helping a middle school student in Trumansburg to terrorize the students there?
These tactics seem designed to make Trumansburg residents feel that the Middle School is safe, while not actually being part of a reasonable approach to actually ensure safety. It’s a bad lesson for students at the Trumansburg schools to learn – that when there is a threat, a show of security should be made, even if the show of security isn’t related to the character of the actual threat.
Also, I worry about the lesson that Middle School students may be learning from this over-reaction. Some may conclude that writing threatening notes and making violent displays is a good way to get attention, and an effective way to gain power over adults.
A far more valuable lesson for students would be that attempts at intimidation will not be rewarded with extravagant displays of fear, such as are being prepared by our schools.
I understand why the schools are doing what they do. I appreciate the sentiment that motivates their actions. If there is a good reason for these very extensive security measures that I don’t understand, I’m receptive to hearing about them.
Seeing us discuss this matter can be a positive thing for our community’s children. Watching us become overexcited will not leave a helpful impression.
Update: This morning, the Ithaca Journal quotes outgoing Superintendent Tangorra as telling the meeting last night, “Say tomorrow we find this person, the threat is not over. I believe there are adults and students across the nation that are capable of this type of behavior.”
Mr. Tangorra, “adults and students across the nation” are not in Trumansburg. The people who are in Trumansburg are in Trumansburg. Please, let’s worry about what is actually happening in the Trumansburg schools, and not extravagant paranoid fantasies about what might happen if someone from a thousand miles away decides to come to our village and kill our children.
If you find the person who lit the firecracker, then yes, “the threat” is over. There is no other threat. This other “threat” involving adults and students from other communities coming here and making our children unsafe is nothing more than a fantasy.
Tangorra also apparently told the crowd that, “Parents have been very comfortable and always had easy access to their children in the school. Realize you’re that child’s parent, but you are a stranger to everyone else.”
Actually, Mr. Tangorra, the parents of the other children at the school are often not strangers to each other. They live in the same community, after all. To the extent that parents are strangers to each other, then that’s a problem that needs to be solved. Searching adult visitors because a middle school student blew up a firecracker won’t solve that problem.
There are now budget increases to pay for additional security staff being planned. I would rather that money be used as a start for a community center to bring us together, rather than unnecessary guards to send the signal that we should be afraid of each other.