Starting October 1st parents will no longer be allowed in my child’s school without signing in at morning drop-off time. I actually think most people at first glance think this is a good thing. Last year at a PTO meeting, I was one of the very few that spoke up against the idea. Since we’ve been enrolled at our school, for the past 4 years, we’ve been allowed to walk our kids to their classrooms in the morning, greet teachers, chatter with other parents, view the week’s projects that line the walls, hold our kid’s hands as they walk to class and wish for them to have fantastic days in a charming village-esk fashion. As it has been, we have to sign in at the main office if we enter after the morning bell rings and the teachers that greet parents and kids in the morning have gone to their classes. Also note there has always been quite a large teacher/staff presence in the hallways at this time greeting parents and monitoring the entrances, as well as a main table stationed in the lobby for sign-in after the bell rings. So it’s not like there aren’t a number of security measures already in place. On October 1st parents will no longer be able to do it this way, and if they wish to go further than the front door they will have to sign in, regardless if class has started or not.
The changes are a direct result from the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School that happened last December, and is one of the many changes that have trickled in since the incident. It’s been a slow-moving process towards this lock-down state that is mostly a bunch of fear-mongering, over-reactions if you ask me.
Last year the debates went back and forth whether parents should be allowed in the building at all. Security officers were brought in, lock down drills that terrify 4 year olds to tears are practiced and re-practiced, multi-hundred thousand dollar renovations are currently being worked on to keep better track of people entering the school (by re-routing the main entrance through the main office) and (many) better high-tech security cameras are set to be installed.
And I know I probably sound silly speaking out against security measures, because what could be bad about being more safe? It is important to be safe and cautious, but at times it goes beyond logical precaution and turns into something overboard and overzealous where we end up criminalizing our own students and their parents. There’s something about the automatic assumption that parents shouldn’t be free to enter the school that bothers me.
My biggest problem with shunning parents from the schools like assumed criminals is that it hinders parent involvement unnecessarily. One of the top most talked about topics at any PTO meeting or open house is parent involvement, parent involvement, parent involvement.
Research shows that successful parent involvement improves not only student behavior and attendance, but also positively affects student achievement, yet schools work more and more towards making it harder for parents to actually be involved; and now, even be allowed near the classrooms. Parents are essentially told and shown with locks and signs that they are no longer welcome.
It’s not going to be easy or valued any longer to greet the people who help raise our children. It’s no longer as easy to pop your head in and ask if your child is doing okay or if there’s something you’ve missed or maybe ask a quick question you have about an upcoming event. The community or village is now becoming detached and the once jovial village is transitioning to the kind of place where you drop your kids off to a building with bars on the doors without even getting up from the seat of your cars. Some parents may now as a result not ever get to see their kid’s classrooms or even meet their children’s teachers in an entire year. And on top of that all, open house isn’t held until the spring, when the school year is already 3/4 over.
Parent interaction isn’t completely shut off, but it’s hindered in a way that makes it not-normal to enter the building. And for what? For a false sense of security? So we pump it into kid’s heads that we live in an unsafe world where even their own parents and classmate’s parents are suspects and potentially deadly and dangerous? I don’t believe we should sacrifice all human interaction and congregations in the name of so-called safety, nor do I think it’s healthy for the mind. Statistically our kids are very safe from outside intruders during school hours, yet we insist on forcing kids to subscribe to the illusion that we are unsafe during our every day routines and it does more damage to our society than an ounce of erroneous prevention.
I know the world seems scary with all these mass shootings, but life goes on and it’s a slippery slope when we start sacrificing being together out of fear for the unknown or things that have a very remote chance of happening.