Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Who is safe today?

Amish - One in the Oven
Originally uploaded by hfire.
I'm beginning to think the answer is "no one."

Robert Kennedy, over at About.com posted today
I used to think, somewhat naively, that the kind of senseless massacres which occurred at Red Lake, Columbine and other public schools would never happen in a private school setting. Now I am not so sure! What has changed my mind? The horrific execution of four girls in a one room school house in Amish country on October 2, 2006. I always imagined that a rural farming community which espoused a simple, 18th century way of life would somehow be immune...
Last night, my bride and I were talking about the shooting; I noted how easy it would be to do something like this at most private schools. I think about the campuses I have been on; infrequently do I ever find a locked door to a building, particularly schools out in the country surrounded by nothing but rolling fields. Public schools often look like fortresses with few doors, perhaps a single open entrance like over a moat for a castle. Private schools are often spread out like retreats or small villages, open and inviting.

CNN has a touching article on this latest shooting.
To his wife, Charles Carl Roberts IV was "loving, supportive, thoughtful."

To his co-workers in rural Pennsylvania, Roberts was a milk truck driver whose mood had darkened in recent days.

To himself, he was a ticking time bomb, consumed by a mysterious grudge that he had harbored for two decades.

And to five young Amish schoolgirls on Monday, Roberts was judge, jury and executioner.

Now the 32-year-old man is dead, his last act a final trigger pull with his gun aimed at himself. He died on the schoolhouse floor, surrounded by the bodies of his young prey.

The reason for his rampage may have died with him.
Who can peer into the mind of a dead man? It's hard enough to look inside the mind of a living person and souse out what is really going on.

This killing spree was no accident. It was, as the CNN article says, a A meticulous and diabolical plan
Authorities say Roberts had meticulously planned his rampage against young girls, loading a borrowed pickup truck with three guns, knives and lumber. He also carried the plastic ties that he'd later use to bind his victims before shooting them at point-blank range.

Roberts was not Amish, and he chose his victims not because of their beliefs but because they were convenient, Pennsylvania State Police Commissioner Jeffrey Miller said. There was no security at the schoolhouse -- there is little need for it in Amish communities.
So there we are; he chose the location for his final act based on ease and convenience.

So where's that leave us for private schools? I'm not sure. I liken this to terror attacks. I'm fairly certain we're going to be hit again. Asymmetric warfare is just too good an opportunity, and we're going to be hit again. Where? Well, some soft target. The soft underbelly of democracy, so to say. I think private schools are in the same boat: sooner or later it is going to happen.

So, what can a school do? We're not likely to tear down a campus to create a fortress. I don't have the answer; for each school the answer is likely different. Perhaps we restrict access to the campus, putting a guard shack at the front gate; perhaps we electronically key all the building and leave nothing open, no matter what the time of day; perhaps we post armed sentries at every door. Some possibilities are better than others, of course.

One thing that is certain is that we are in a new era; we must adjust, no matter how little we like it.

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