Saturday, February 16, 2008

The Safety of Our College Students

Hi Everyone,
This is an official Falcon rant.

I have waited a couple of days to write the rant, hoping that it would give me more clarity, and a bit more balance. I don't think it has, frankly. I am so angry, and sad that yet another four, yes four school shootings occured during the past week! Our young people are in crisis, and in their illness, imbalance, disconnection, and sorrow, they are taking others with promise, vitality, and future success with them in horrible fashion down a hole of despair and agony.

This is a viral sneeze of a much larger pandemic. Why are there so many emotionally ill young people not receiving greater supervision while dealing with their illnesses? And here is the 900 pound elephant in the proverbial room: how is it that these individuals are able to legally buy guns that can be used, in this case as well as others, as weapons of mass destruction?! I just don't understand.

Here's something else I don't understand: why are large college campuses so security weak? Now, I don't mean the response to the calamity at NIU; I think the security and police did an excellent job in response time, and getting students to area hospitals. I don't think there is anything else they could have done, given the set of circumstances they found themselves facing, and they are to be applauded.

Here's what I don't understand. All of you loyal Falcon and Dove listeners and bloggers know I am a parent of a college age student, so you know these tragedies are making me especially nervious at all times. My kid's campus has security guards at every door, with smart cards for every student, and cameras and monitors everywhere.Students are fine with it; they know it's for their protection. Why doesn't every campus have this equipment? I know it's a little pricey, but if you can have 25,000 students on campus, you can have some smart cards and security guards. If you told me as a parent that tuition would go up $2,000 next fall because of security updates, I would be okay with that, and I don't know any parent who would question that expense, if that is where it was going.

I am sure in this important election year, that some enterprising politican would be willing to write a bill with tons of Congressional support giving colleges and universities with large student bodies, and acres of grounds to cover additional funding to reduce the number of individuals able to get on campus, or access student buidlings without proper authorization.

At my daughter's university, once a term is over, the Smart Card must be updated.As a matter of fact, it can have its access changed at any time. A former student would not be able to access dorms, etc. because their card won't work. I have visited some urban campuses where the security room looks like the Pentagon, with cameras watching everywhere, and computers that track the movement of every campus body. There are also paper 'smart tags' that are great for visitors that can be read just like the smart cards by buidling sensors.

This troubled young man would have never gotten into a building had there been a Smart Card system and a security guard on the door. I normally don't try to second guess under these curcumstances, but this has now become such an epidemic, I feel as a parent I have to say something.

I understand that only so much can be done in these cases by universities when these 'lone wolf' dispondent youth with guns have a plan, but I also know that they might be discouraged or even derailed if they cannot get to their target, and they are on camera 24/7. It may not take care of every attack, but it might reduce them.

I think we owe it to all the beautiful, gifted lives that have been lost in these attacks; all the injured students and faculty, famililes, and friends to investigate any and all ways we might be able to make our campuses more secure: from keeping guns out of the hands of those who clearly cannot handle them responsibly to securing buildings and grounds of large campuses.

Ironically, yesterday in Pittsburgh, there was a 10 university conference of security from each school, discussing ways to protect students, respond to emergencies, and reduce the liklihood of having a catastrophe on campus. Again, no one can guarantee complete safety at all times, but working toward reducing these kinds of attacks is critical.

One more thing: if young adults are still college students, there needs to be a sharing of information concerning the health, welfare, and actions of that young adult as long as they are attending school in some capacity somewhere. Families are under-informed in some cases, or out of the loop completely on what crisis their son or daughter might be experiencing. There needs to be some transparency in records of those who are still in school to their families, since those will be the first ones called when a tragedy strikes. Better informed families, with university resources, may seek more concrete solutions that could prevent an unspeakable tragedy.

My prayers are with all of those who are suffering.

I am calling on all parents to rise up and become proactive on this issue. Whether your child is in a public school, private school, Home School, or university or college, let's demand some comprehensive action to increase security, and decrease apathy and dispair.

Falcon's rant is done...for now.

Peace all our family, because we are One Family,

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