Welcoming Elijah in the Age of Guns and Newtown

Open-Door Spirit of Passover Threatened by Suspicion Culture

After Sandy Hook: Schools are increasingly locking their doors.
Jeff Pachoud/AFP/Getty Images
After Sandy Hook: Schools are increasingly locking their doors.

By Lenore Skenazy

Published March 19, 2013, issue of March 22, 2013.
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“The new ‘security measure’ at my son’s elementary school is having to ring a doorbell and wait for the school secretary to open the door for you,” a mom named Rebecca wrote. “To me this is absolutely Security Theater and is doing nothing to add protection for the students or faculty. But there are many people who nod their heads and say, ‘Yes, this is necessary and will help protect our babies!’”

Except for the fact that the locked door did nothing to stop the gunman in Newtown.

Another woman wrote: “I am an itinerant teacher working at seven different schools. I wear a photo ID badge and sign in at every school upon arrival. Now I have to hand over my car keys in order to receive a key to the hall doors. When I finally make my way to the classroom door it is also locked. I have to knock… state my name and also the secret password before [the other teacher] can open the door. This is in a school district that has never experienced any gun violence on campus.”

Neither have the vast majority of schools in America.

Since there are so many stories of newly bolted doors and elaborate sign-in procedures, let me skip to the even more bizarre “safety” modifications: “The teachers and principal at our school voted to wear bright-orange vests on the playground.” Uh, okay. Apparently it’s so the kids will be able to better spot them in an emergency, like, say, a shooting.

A day care center has instructed parents to shut the door on any other parents for whom they otherwise might have held it open. This is to — well, frankly, I can’t even see what it’s supposed to do, other than enrage the people getting the door slammed on them (and on their babies).

And as of February, at one of my own son’s schools, visitors have to hand over their driver’s licenses so that they can be scanned for a quickie background check. Now the entryway is jammed with a long line of suspects, er, parents.

All this works wonders at eroding a sense of community, and that’s the problem with fear. While I don’t blame anyone for feeling shaken by the shooting, I do blame us for being so ready — almost eager — to start believing the worst of people. All people. Even the parent straggling a few feet behind us at the day care door, juggling a baby and a briefcase. Slam.

We are turning friends into strangers, and strangers into enemies, with the kind of distrust you see in wartime.

But it’s not wartime. Our children are not less safe than they were before Newtown. And we are all a lot more safe than the Jews who opened their doors each Passover throughout the brutal, bloody centuries.

On this holiday, we are commanded to extol our freedom, not throw it away.

Lenore Skenazy is a public speaker and the founder of the book “Free-Range Kids” and the blog of the same name. Her show, “World’s Worst Mom,” airs on Discovery/TLC International.


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