Parents, elected officials and school leaders in Lincoln have offered many different ideas to improve student safety following the February massacre at a Florida high school.
On Tuesday, those groups took the first concrete steps in that direction when Lincoln Public Schools signed a memorandum of understanding that would allow the Lincoln Police Department to access live video feeds from the city’s public high schools in case of a critical emergency.
If the unthinkable were to happen at a Lincoln high school, placing students in a literal life-or-death situation, seconds saved could very well mean lives saved.
While it’s easy to play armchair quarterback a safe distance from an active shooter, the initial response to the Florida shooting was mishandled. The shooter had extra time – and could have wounded or killed additional victims – as a result of delays in locating and neutralizing the threat.
By collaborating in advance, Lincoln school and police officials are setting themselves up to avoid similar fates in a situation that nobody hopes happens. But one can never be sure.
Each of Lincoln’s six public high schools is equipped with roughly 50 security cameras in public spaces, such as hallways, commons areas and parking lots. If a shooter or bad actor were to somehow breach the school’s existing security measures, police would have a new weapon to help end the terror.
Streamlining this process while preserving protections for student confidentiality – such as requiring a subpoena for unrelated criminal investigations and allowing LPS to audit the access – straddles the delicate line between public safety and privacy.
This security improvement comes with no defined price tag for taxpayers. But other options, including adding more school resource or threat assessment officers, aren’t free.
Despite the coalition of parents and community leaders willing to invest in these items, the primary goal of K-12 education is obviously education. Yet many loudly condemn public schools for consuming too many of their tax dollars – and that’s before their first dollar is spent on new student safety measures.
Right now, seemingly the entire focus is on mitigating damages should the horrific occur in a school. But the other side of the coin must not be ignored, either, as these improvements must also aim to prevent individuals from walking into school armed, intent on claiming innocent lives.
The drumbeat for change hasn’t subsided in the month and a half since a former student opened fire at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. If anything, it’s been amplified with the teenagers leading the way and nationwide marches – including in Lincoln – highlighting how the status quo of inaction is increasingly intolerable.
Progress on this front will no doubt come in many forms. To that end, Lincoln’s leaders are taking the lead to address this critical cause, as evidenced by this week’s progress.