No less a genius than Benjamin Franklin once opined that: “He who chooses security over freedom deserves neither.”
And no less a wartime leader than Franklin Delano Roosevelt noted that: “We have nothing to fear but fear itself.”
But both of those sentiments were MIA last Monday (11.16.15) night at the Park Ridge-Niles School District 64 Board meeting, and apparently at the last several Board meetings, as the D-64 “Chicken Littles” – a/k/a, the D-64 Board and administration members – tried to convince whomever would listen that each of the District’s seven schools and everyone inside them are in imminent danger from (pick your favorite paranoia): ISIS suicide bombers, unstable non-custodial parents, bullied introverts with access to semi-automatic weapons, or miscellaneous unidentified bogeymen.
Instead, we got repeated displays of what no less a political philosopher than Edmund Burke warned about: “No passion so effectively robs the mind of all its powers of acting and reasoning as fear.”
And, yes, the fearmongers did invoke “Sandy Hook.” More than once.
But, better yet, they also invoked the image of Laurie Dann – the emotionally-troubled young woman who, in 1988, walked into the Hubbard Woods Elementary School in Winnetka with three pistols tucked into her clothing and proceeded to shoot one child to death and wound five others.
But the D-64 tag team of Board president Tony Borrelli and Supt. Laurie Heinz – seemingly operating from Rahm Emanuel’s playbook – don’t appear to want to let any crisis, real or imagined, go to waste. So they are doing their best to stampede the herd (a/k/a the rest of the D-64 Board) into throwing multi-millions of taxpayer dollars at “security” projects that won’t really make our schools secure, including the “secured vestibules” that have now come down in price to a bargain-basement $5.1 million.
Why spend $5.1 million when, as we understand it, each school is currently supposed to be on lockdown during the school day, with the only entry point being a locked main entrance through which only approved visitors can be “buzzed in.”
What’s “insecure” about that?
We’re still not sure, even after watching the “secured vestibules” portion – from 57:15 to 3:24:35 – of the meeting video. But from the gist of the comments made by the Chicken Littles, the schools aren’t the fortresses some folks might like them to be.
But here’s a most curious fact: despite D-64’s teachers being, along with the children, the most direct beneficiaries of whatever “security” the $5.1 million secured vestibules can provide, their union – a/k/a the Park Ridge Education Association (“PREA”), has failed/refused to formally endorse them.
You can watch (at 2:11:00 – 2:11:47 of the meeting video) the current president of the PREA, Erin Breen, say that the PREA has no official position on the plan. And several minutes later you can watch the most recent PREA past president (and current Lincoln Middle School teacher) Andy Duerkop state that schools can’t be made “safe” before questioning whether secured vestibules are the best way to spend $5 million.
Gee, do you think the PREA’s refusal to go on record in support of $5 million worth of half-baked secured vestibules has anything to do with the fact that it’s going to be asking taxpayers for a new multi-year, multi-million dollar contract next year?
If so, you may be starting to understand how local government works.
But if the teachers give so little concern to the secured vestibules that they aren’t willing to jeopardize their next contract by formally supporting them, why did a 4 (Borrelli, Zimmerman, Lee and Johnson) to 3 (Paterno, Eggemann and Sotos) vote to spend $600,000 to move forward on their design and whatever building additions/renovations may be needed to accommodate them?
Could it be because the D-64 Board and Administration has been so unsuccessful in moving the needle of objectively-measurable student performance that they need a “Look, there goes Elvis!” distraction?
If so, what could be a better distraction than panic-peddling various forms of domestic terrorism (Sandy Hook, Laurie Dann, etc.), especially when you’ve got parents like Jeff Schneider telling the Board to “Do anything in your power, regardless of cost, to protect these schools and our children”; and Paul Sheehan asking the Board to adopt a policy of “Zero tolerance for risk to our babies while within our schools”?
There were a few voices of reason, however, including residents Joan Sandrick and Diane Bresler; and Board member Dathan Paterno, who raised enough questions about the process, the data, the “expert” opinions, and the manipulativeness of the secured vestibule advocates to stop any such project dead in its tracks if making the right long-term, cost-effective decision was the principal goal.
But it’s not. And it rarely has been at D-64.
Ironically, the kind of spare-no-expense/accept-no-risk nuttiness voiced by Board members, administrators, the District’s architects, and some of those citizen speakers ignores the fact that the $5 million spent on secured vestibules is basically WASTED if not accompanied by metal detectors.
Without metal detectors at every secured vestibule, any bullied student can walk into the school with a backpack loaded with the same three handguns that Laurie Dann carried into that Winnetka school.
Any over-stressed, homicidal non-custodial dad can walk in with the same Bushmaster XM15-E2S stashed under his trench coat, and the same Glock 20SF stuck in his waistband, that Adam Lanza carried into Sandy Hook Elementary.
And any disaffected soccer mom with too many toys in her attic can stroll right in wearing a suicide vest under her North Face parka filled with ten or twenty pounds of ball bearings, like Hasna Ait Boulahcen may (or may not) have been wearing when she was killed in that Saint-Denis apartment.
But none of the Chicken Littles want to discuss making metal detectors part of the secured vestibule project. Metal detectors are serious business, a lot more serious than this Board and this Administration is willing to get about “security.”
Look! There goes Elvis!
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