Back 20 years ago I was enjoying my sophomore year in high school. I had grown into a somewhat strapping handsome athletic young man. I had my fair share of girls showing interest in me. I was involved in a number of activities such as band, current events club, and was captain of the sophomore soccer team.
School was good, my school was on the large side with about 1900 students in grades 10-12. Geometry and chemistry classes were kicking my butt. French class, I thought at the time, was taught incorrectly by being based on proper grammar and spelling. Instead of speaking the language, I could write a kick butt letter to a hypothetical French pen pal. But I wanted to travel to France and to speak the language, not write it.
I had good speaking relationships and a healthy respect from the administrators. I remember the vice principle seemingly knowing everyone by name. The hallway aids were always friendly and smiling. They responded with humor to daily jokes and playfully teased students back. Generally, if I had business to leave class in the middle of a period, no one would bat an eye or check my hall pass. I felt like a respected young man. The couple in the locker next to me were fond of their daily groping and kissing session while waiting for the first bell.
Also at my school, like many others, was a group of smokers with lockers together in a separate hallway known as the "smoker hall". The smokers congregated daily in the area behind the school known as the "back forty". I really didn't know too many of these people, I might have "shop" class with a few of these kids. A few of these kids I had been friends with in elementary school, but hadn't spoke to them much recently. With almost 700 people in my grade, it was hard to know everyone. Overall, I liked high school.
During the next summer before my junior year, the School Board changed everything.
They decided that smoking had to end at all schools, for all kids, and staff. Lockers could be subject to routine searches, and all students would be scrutinized when in the hallways during class. To enforce this new directive, the school hired a group of $9/hr security aids to help rid the school of smoking. Even better, these individuals were outfitted in matching cheap purple polyester blazers. Quickly they were dubbed as the "Polyester Patrol."
I remember this crop of purple security guards, they roamed the school hallways all day long, they looked you up and down. Most of these men and women had permanent scowls imprinted on their faces. One guy looked about 350 pounds and smelled like he hadn't taken a shower in a week.There were rumors of forced searches, even upon clothing for suspected contraband. There were rumors of polyester patrols smoking freshly confiscated cigarettes in bathrooms.
The worst for me was if I had business in the hallway. Immediately upon seeing me, two or three polyester patrol would meet me in the hallway. They would ask for my hall pass. They would look at the pass like there were supposed to be hidden security threads embedded, holding it up to the light. With 800 pounds of purple humanity staring down at me, I would feel the sudden need to urinate. There were no jokes, no smiles, no "have a good day". I never smoked and wondered if they would search my jacket or clothes for some imagined contraband.
My high school lost something during that fall. It lost it's respect for the kids, The school lost it's humanity, it also lost it's human dignity. I felt some days like I was living in East Germany....."Papers please".
I have no problem with schools having armed trained police officers at schools. I have good memories of personable well trained school cops who could relate well to students.
I draw the line at armed teachers and fake rent a cops. Going back to my high school days, I fear that if one of those polyester patrol fella's had been armed, there would have been a shooting or at least a student detained at gunpoint over simple smoking contraband. I also draw the line at armed guards, openly carrying military style rifles.
The answer that the NRA has for our schools will turn our kids into non-thinking, robotic, obedient law and order types, used to having armed guards check for papers, while the guards carry firearms, and leashed attack dogs. Check your civil liberties at the door.
What the NRA is advocating is an out and out surrender to the bad guy. When, George W Bush and Dick Cheney advocated being afraid after 9/11, Wayne LaPierre is now doing the same. From the NRA perspective, don't live your life, be afraid, don't respect your different looking neighbors. Be always watchful, vigilant, and armed.
(And don't forget, the gun lobby gets a nice kickback when schools start buying guns.)
The NRA and me have dramatically different views on how the people in our communities should relate to each other, especially towards a person looks or sounds different. I don't claim to have the answers, but one solution to reduce school violence is to show respect and dignity to all students, not to stick guns in their faces. My adventures with the Polyester Patrol shows how not to treat kids. The next year the Polyester Patrol was fired and replaced with plainclothes aids, who kept checking my hall pass each day, but did so with a "thank you", and "have a good day".