X-Ray Justice

Our school has scanning.

What is ‘scanning’, you ask?  Think airport. That’s what it is.

Sometimes I hear scanning mentioned in the public sphere in the context of how fascist city public schools are.  There’ll be a kid interviewed on NPR saying, “Security treat us like criminals!” The follow-up is that kids behave how they think they are expected to behave – and seeing law enforcement and metal detectors at school acts as a self-fulfilling prophecy.  What gets missed in this conversation, however, is how many  just-out-of-an-adult-prison, hot-to-the-touch, actual criminals we already have in our schools.  So how should THEY be treated?

These guys aren’t reading the prophecies for cues on how to act. You wouldn’t believe how many blades we confiscate at scanning, from box-cutters to razors to paring knives, and that’s when they KNOW there’s metal detector. Imagine if there weren’t one. Now imagine all those fights, but with hanging flaps of skin and geysers of blood.

And if you think I would be doing what I do every day if I knew any kid could just waltz right in with a .45, then you crazy. No, if we didn’t have scanning, our school would be a dark place indeed – like, intro sequence to The Equalizer dark.

Now, I’m not saying that some of these schools are not in fact sick, sick places or that corruption and incompetence aren’t big problems.  They are. But I’m also saying that a significant part of the disease is the way kids already are, before schools get their pasty, fascist, educated hands on them.

And as for the safety agents (they don’t like to be called security guards), while there is a bit of tension between them and administration, most safety-agents are my friends and I have a lot of respect for what they do every day – especially when they are there to back me up in a melee.

Still, there are times when certain agents do act unprofessionally.  There is one at our school who seems to have a particular penchant for launching kids into walls and making inappropriate observations about their mothers. For a couple others, their biggest crime is getting just a little too buddy-buddy with some of the gang-members for my liking, or becoming way too good at sleeping while standing up. But all the rest of them work their butts off in a frustrating and tough system and I’m grateful to them.

That being said, (and you didn’t hear this from me) kids can still get anything they want into the building. That’s because we have an overflow classroom area in the front lawn of the school that is connected to the main building by a scannerless doorway. The “trailers”, as they are called, are fenced off but the fences are not that high, so things can be tossed over them, and a lot of things can fit right through the fence itself. So while the scanners provide some psychological salve, the truth is that it’s really not that hard to get a phone, blunderbuss, briefcase-nuke… whatever, into the building. To illustrate this chink in our armor, last year I had a teacher come to me and complain that every single day this guy in her class stands up, walks out of her room, goes out to the trailers, climbs over the fence, walks to the store, buys chips and a soda, climbs back over the fence, comes back into the building, back into her class, sits down and eats his food. Every day. When a significant portion of your student body has easy access to guns and even easier access to violent conflict, that’s a concern. That is, it would be a concern if we didn’t have this sign!

(Photo Removed)

I know it’s a poor quality image, but it’s a list of prohibited items in the building. Apparently, the last few times they updated it were in 1993, 1985, 1962 and 1308, as evidenced by my four favorite prohibited items:  BEEPERS, WALKMAN, YO-YOs, and BALL & CHAIN.  Seriously. If you look closely, you can see it. You can’t make this stuff up folks.

Speaking of prohibited items, our rookie dean had the pleasure of being called down to the entrance today to witness Safety do a search of a female student.  She kept setting off the metal detector and refused to relinquish the “item” in her possession, so she had to be searched.  Well, the item turned out to be a cell phone (not allowed), and its hiding place was… well… let’s just say she was told to place it inside a latex glove before handing it over. Yeah.

One of the deans elbowed me in the ribs when they brought her up to the office, “I wonder if she had it on vibrate,” he whispered out of the corner of his mouth.

She sat down, hiding her head in her lap, and started sobbing about how her mom is not going to come pick her up from school because “she don’t care about me!”.  A phone call was made and her claim was quickly verified. Her mother did not care about her.  But then the social worker got ahold of the mother and the plot coagulated a little bit. The girl, 18, has been living in several states recently and has been in and out of shelters and domestic violence facilities, and the reason the mother wants nothing to do with her is that the girl beats her. Yes, the girl beats the mother.  And with three other children of 3, 10 and 16 years of age in the apartment, the mother understandably can’t have that.

See! Scanning does catch criminals.

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