Death in the Classroom

by | May 25, 2022 |

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In a classroom of children, the attack on innocence in Uvalde, Texas is not just overwhelmingly painful; it has shaken our nation to the core. 

In the days since the Sandy Hook Elementary School attack, where babies were slaughtered in their classrooms by a mentally ill person, we have talked more about school safety and security than ever before. Many school districts have made plans, we have tried to institute new policies designed to make our kids safe, and we have looked to technology to help us.

Some progress, perhaps, but it is not nearly enough since not every district has done what they need to do, nor has our federal or state governments provided the financial assistance required to make every school safer.       

There is no way to bring this topic up anymore without a feeling of helplessness and frustration.

For the past ten years, I have been teaching about school safety and security, writing articles about how to make schools safer, running webinars on the topic, and speaking on various radio programs, all in an effort to get the attention of our school boards, administrators, parents, and government officials so they will take the steps they need to take to make our schools safer, but I still get the same comment from so many….. “It will never happen here.”

That phrase is what I describe as the most dangerous statement that anyone can make. And so, I’m clear, let me answer the “it will never happen here” concept… “You are wrong; it can happen at your school; it can happen anywhere. Get ready as the next attack is only weeks, days, or minutes away!”

Every parent or guardian should call their school district and ask if they have done the following six items:

  1. Have they ordered a professional Threat, Vulnerability, and Risk Assessment (TVRA)?
  2. Have the staff been trained to recognize potentially dangerous students and have an intervention plan? This is known as developing a student-based threat assessment team.
  3. Get the staff trained to de-escalate situations before they erupt into violence.
  4. Develop a district-wide plan to identify students who don’t feel connected to their school or peers. This is one of the signs we find in the active shooters in schools.
  5. What technology is in place to keep the school safe?
  6. What kind of drills do they run? Are they drills of value or just checking off the boxes? 

In my work, I talk to many school officials who say they want to do more; they don’t have the money for a quality assessment or upgrading equipment, and in many cases, that is true. How then can we help those districts?   

We have to demand that our state and federal governments fund these programs and equipment with simple, easy to apply for grants that every district can obtain. 

This will be costly, but what are our kids’ and teachers’ lives worth? I say at least as much as what we just sent to Ukraine to help them survive and be safe from attacks. This would be a good start. 

We cannot and should not disarm law-abiding citizens who are exercising their 2nd amendment rights; instead, we should consider how we can screen out mentally ill people so they cannot get weapons. That is where we can find reasonable processes to help.

We can also enforce the gun laws we have on the books across the nation already. And here’s a good idea… let’s accept that the way to make our justice system fairer is not to allow killers and violent criminals out of jail with no bail…. It doesn’t work; they just commit more crimes, kill more people, and destroy an orderly society. 

The facts about what happened at the Robb Elementary School are still being learned, but it seems the killer had severe mental issues, he made threats, and he apparently walked in the unlocked front door of the school.

A review of the district website showed they took the time to consider safety, they had security officers, the technology, and plans, but all of that effort was for nothing if they didn’t at least lock the doors. 

This is no time to criticize the victims as we don’t know the facts, it is a time to pray for them, but we must understand all of the facts here so we can learn from this tragedy and try to protect our kids from the next attack that will surely come.   

I’ve given some suggestions here; I urge everyone to heed them and take action. If you have questions or concerns, you can reach out to me; this is what I do.

Lt. Joseph Pangaro

Joseph Pangaro is a retired Police Lieutenant from the Township of Ocean, Monmouth County, NJ. During his 27 year career, Lieutenant Pangaro served in many capacities. After nine years as a patrol officer, he was transferred to the detective bureau, where he served 12 years. During that time, Lt. Pangaro prepared and executed hundreds of search warrants, testified in numerous high profile criminal court cases, and excelled in the area of criminal investigations, including; homicides, sexual assaults, drug crimes, fraud, burglary, juvenile investigations, economic crimes, vice crimes, quality of life crimes and other crimes of violence. He has acted in undercover capacities and worked with numerous local, county, state, and federal agencies. Joseph Pangaro served as a sergeant in the detective bureau, supervising a group of highly motivated and active officers in the unit and the “Quality of Life” unit.

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j. bell
j. bell
8 months ago

I listened to the Texas Department of Public Safety news conference today regarding the timeline of Robb School shooting in Uvalde. Uvalde police arrived at 11:35 am, four minutes after shots fired outside of the school. Uvalde police should have been in command at that point, not the chief of police of the consolidated school district. Decision made to wait on Border patrol tactical team who arrived at 12:15 pm may have let many kids bleed to death. Take autopsies of all victims, to determine cause of death, to hold all bad decision makers accountable. 19 officers in the hallway at 12:03 pm, 19 kids eventually died, and breach of classroom door at 12:50 pm to eliminate the shooter, says someone must be held accountable for bad decisions made. Steve McCraw of the Texas DPS looking for sympathy from the press for their hard questions, like his DPS is being victimized, is par for the course. Barricaded suspect versus active shooter determination mistake.

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