One Sunday morning, as Teddy was getting ready for church, his father came into the room. He saw that Teddy had his slingshot in one pocket and was attaching a knife to his belt. The father, who was confused, asked Teddy why he felt the need to arm himself in such a manner to go into the house of the Lord. Teddy assertively replied that he needed to protect himself. The father, perplexed by now, wanted to know, “From what?”
Teddy reminded his father that in last week’s sermon, the minister had read a passage from the Bible where he said that the “Zeal of the Lord eateth me up” (St. John 2:17). Teddy explained to his father that he had never seen a “Zeal” before, but it must be fearsome and it was not going to eat him up! Seeing that the boy was really sincere, he explained that the “Zeal of the Lord” was not physical, but a spiritual way of expressing the power of the Lord. Teddy’s fears were not realistic in thinking “zeal” to be an animal.
However, evil is very real and greatly to be feared. In our modern culture, the thought of evil or the devil are often things thought to be old-fashioned. If you had been in that Connecticut school in Sandy Hook on that fateful Friday morning, you would have no doubt that real evil is alive and well. On that terrible morning when all those precious children and adult caregivers were slain, pure evil in human form was at its best. We are taught that in the book of 1 Peter that evil parades to and fro upon the earth, seeking whom it may devour (1Peter 5:8). It consumed precious children and adults that day as well as destroying the lives of parents, grandparents and school leaders whose hopes and aspirations lay in shambles.
Jesus clearly said “do not restrain the little ones from coming to me.” Then goes on to say that “it is better that a millstone be placed around someone’s neck and they be cast into the sea than for one of the little ones to be harmed” (Matthew 18:6). That is about as close to judicial condemnation that our Lord has ever delivered.
As I listened last Friday to the 26 bells that rang in honor of lives cut too short that day, I wept as did many of you. There will not be any joy in the lives of those affected this Christmas, maybe not ever again for some of them.
Having recounted those lives with honor, it is imperative that we never see a repeat of this horrible act. All educational institutions, especially Houston Schools, realize that this is a “9-11” event for us. There are steps which we must take, no matter how expensive or inconvenient.
Physically speaking, we must provide barriers such as solid classroom doors with commercial interior locks for direct safety. Then we will secure all exterior doors on the front of schools and also every other outside entry. Yes, that will be an inconvenience for changing of classes for band, gym, lunch, reading, bathrooms.
Also, the easy access that parents have enjoyed to buildings and school will become more difficult. Cameras and voice mediums at school entrances will become commonplace. Drivers’ license and other IDs may be required for school entrance during the school day and “student check-outs” will be limited to guardian parents or special identified persons.
Even thought school officers may know visitors, security procedures will still need to be strictly enforced.
At a time when Houston School District is diligently embracing parent support and involvement with great success, it may now appear that we are making that effort difficult. I hope that all school supporters will not feel alienated, but will embrace the process necessary for school safety.
All schools have plans for fire and tornados, as well as intruder in the building and an intruder outside the building. Most recently, we also have a plan for any catastrophic event of local or national concern. These drills are run on a regular basis to ensure speed and compliance.
Also, know that beyond those drills, the local police, sheriff’s department, fire divisions, emergency management and Homeland Security all work together to synchronize their activities in conjunction with local school officials. Fortunately, in our little town, they are all only minutes from a distressed area.
The procedures listed above are not cheap and will be expensive. The Houston School District will appropriate the necessary school funds to enhance school security, even though it will require the expenditures of critical savings dollars, but there is nothing more precious than our children.
We have reached a time in our society where we must all be patient with each other in the implementation of these new standards. Also, we have reached a time where we must all be diligent in looking, watching, and listening for unusual things around our schools and community. Above all, we must share information. Like the young Teddy Roosevelt, we must always be alert and prepared. And like his irrational fear, hopefully, our anxiety will turn out to be misplaced.
But in the meantime, we must have resolve to be diligent and prepare ….and pray that evil never comes to us.
Dr. Steve Coker is Superintendent of the Houston School District. He is a regular columnist for the Chickasaw Journal and can be reached at the Houston School District Central Office at 456-3332.