Recent tragedies bring back old memories

Published 6:00 am Friday, March 2, 2018

School security is not a new problem in our society. Back in the late 1960s and 70s, our high school had armed security guards. There were also security guards with German shepherds by their sides. These were in the era of race riots and big city turmoil. Our school district was part of the Cook County Schools which included Chicago.

It didn’t matter how many days in a row a student rode the same bus to and from school, they were not getting on until they showed their student photo ID. Once the bus arrived at school, each student had to show their ID to get in the school. Heaven help the ones who got caught in the hallway running late for class or at the bathroom during class without their ID.

We often had bomb threats, most of which turned out to be false. But each one was taken seriously, and the buildings were emptied from time to time when a threat had been made. I’m sure some did it to disrupt the daily routine because they were bored or wanted to see if they could get away with it.

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Parent and child never knew when they got on the bus and went to school each day what might happen before they got home. It was a very unnerving time in our world. The atmosphere was not very good for serious studies. It is hard to get the most out of class if the students and teachers are afraid of what might happen at any moment.

During one incident, an announcement came over the intercom to get everyone inside the classrooms and lock the doors. I was on the fourth floor in a business class with a group of all girls. Our little male teacher (who always wore a bow tie, if I remember correctly) left the room to see what was going on. He told us to stay put.

Being the good students that we were, we went out in the hallway and were looking through the windows down at the main entrance. We saw a TV camera go flying through the air. Next, we saw the camera man and the reporter flying behind the camera. When we realized we were being invaded, we scurried back inside and did as we had been told. Our teacher came back, he was white as a ghost and sweating profusely. We knew he was scared.

When the word was given to evacuate, none of us in that fourth floor class wanted to be the last ones leaving the building! Everything was a blur of stairways and bodies surging down and out to the buses. It was a long way and we were afraid the buses would leave without us. I saw a boy get stabbed trying to get to the bus.

The recent tragedies have brought back those old memories and the thoughts of an old solution to violence. Armed guards in school hallways is not what anybody wants. As imperfect as this might be, it is certainly better than the alternative.

I am not sure about having teachers armed in the classroom. I’m not sure that if I were still in the classroom that I could draw a gun on a child who had set in my class and pull the trigger. But if I saw that child slaughtering other innocent students, I don’t know how I’d react.

It seems to me that the first line of defense is daily prayers by parents for the protection of their children, then student classes in self-defense, lessons about what to do in a lock down situation, and as much security as any individual school can muster. The difference between my high school days and these current days is that the danger in my days came from adults with grievances outside the school. Today the greatest threats have come from within, students doing the unthinkable.

I don’t know the perfect solution, but I hope someone figures it out soon. This problem is not going away.

Reach longtime Enterprise columnist Judith Victoria Hensley at or on Facebook. Check out her blog: One Step Beyond the Door.