Disclaimer: The opinions expressed within are entirely my own, and do not in any way represent any organization that I am affiliated with.
That’s what one school superintendent has come up with in the wake of the February 14, 2018 massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, FL which left 17 dead.
Since this tragedy – which is officially now being called the deadliest school shooting in U.S. history – we’ve seen a lot of knee-jerk reactions by both lawmakers and private citizens alike. Some have been positive, like the students mobilizing and marching in a passionate protest of Florida’s gun control laws. Some have been negative, as lawmakers and lobbyists take to the airways and battle each other with misguided statistics on national news.
Some have been downright extremist: One side of the spectrum wants to seize all firearms; the other side wants to arm everyone to the teeth. There have been demands to change the laws, arm the teachers and completely ban the sale of the AR-15 style semi-automatic rifle used by 19-year-old Nikolas Cruz to perpetrate the mass shooting in Parkland.
And some have been downright ridiculous. Dr. David H. Helsel, superintendent of schools for the Blue Mountain School District in Schuylkill County, PA, as of March 24th had himself an epiphany of sorts, and decided to place buckets of river stones in each of the classrooms in his fiefdom. In a nutshell, he wants students and staff alike to throw rocks at an active shooter.
I’d like to repeat that, because it sounds vaguely important: Rocks. Against an evolving active shooter incident.
At first glance, I truly thought the deliciously witty satirists at The Onion had penned the article. Then I checked it out on five different international news outlets. The story was correct. Dr. Helsel, you see, doesn’t want students and parents to sit and wait under desks and behind classroom furniture to become the next victims. His heart is in the right place, but I’m betting those rocks came from his head.
“Protocol has been that students lie down, under desks and basically become passive targets on [sic] our classrooms,” Helsel told CNN. “We decided to empower our students with tools of self-defense if needed.” (source: https://www.cnn.com/2018/03/24/us/pennsylvania-school-students-armed-rocks-trnd/index.html)
Rocks? Rocks. Pull up a YouTube video of anyone firing a semi-automatic rifle. Think stones are going to stop that?
The decision was made after teachers went through an intensive (albeit short) active shooter response training. They adopted the acronym ‘ALICE’ which stands for Alert, Lockdown, Inform, Counter and Evacuate. The intrinsic core of this class was to teach educators how to barricade the classroom doors with desks, chair and everything else they can find if safe evacuation is not an option.
Dr. Helsel urges students to throw not only those river stones but everything from pencils to staplers to books, to distract and/or wound the shooter. Helsel, incidentally, draws a salary of $146,500 yearly to make these asinine decisions. (Conversely, teachers’ median salaries range anywhere from $28,300 to $54,130 depending on tenure; I firmly believe they should get hazard pay.)
Blue Mountain School District in Schuylkill County by the numbers:
- 5 schools, K-12
- 204 teachers
- 2,700 students
- Population hovering around 149,000 persons
- Covers 783 miles
And we’re giving them buckets of rocks. Maybe next we should arm our law enforcement with Nerf guns and give our fire department personnel Super-Soakers, and see how that pans out for public safety.
The State of Florida, long criticized for its relaxed policy on gun sales, stepped up to the plate to make a change. Senate Bill 7026 – also known as “The Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Act” – passed almost unanimously and was signed into law by Governor Rick Scott on March 9.
Here’s a gleaning of what it does:
- Includes provisions to teach school staff to be trained (and actually deputized) to carry guns on school campuses
- Raises the age requirement to 21 for ALL gun purchases with a mandated three-date waiting period
- Bans the sale and possession of bump firestock weapon modifications
- Provides funding for more mental health assistance in schools
- Provides funding to beef up police security on school grounds
- Gives our law enforcement officers more authority to seize weapons and ammunition from owners deemed mentally unstable or a threat to others
What it doesn’t include is a ban on the sale of semi-automatic rifles like the kind used in the Parkland shooting – a pain point for many. My response to that? Pick your battles.
I’m a responsible gun owner and carry concealed. And I’m good with those changes. Especially the raising of the purchasing age from 18 to 21. I’ve known some 18 year olds that I wouldn’t trust to recite the days of the week in proper order, much less handle a weapon.
As expected, the National Rifle Association has filed a challenge in court against Senate Bill 7026, calling the changes a violation of the U.S. Constitution. I’m not even going to get into that. But I digress.
Back to the rocks. Dr. Helsel, is this the best you could come up with? If you want to empower your staff, do your district a favor and educate, train and arm your teachers who are willing to carry and defend the young lives they’re responsible for in loco parentis daily. There are no more safe places. This is what we’ve become, and we are never going back to the way things used to be. Adapt and overcome, my friend. Toss the stones back into whatever river they came from, stand up and DO SOMETHING. Take a good look at the faces pictured here. If that doesn’t inspire you to make a more aggressive decision, nothing will.