In ending a tradition of using schools as polling sites, the Janesville School District showed it takes student safety seriously.
You don’t need to be a security expert to recognize that allowing voters onto school grounds during the school day creates a security problem, though few people have spoken publicly about this issue. We don’t want to believe someone would use Election Day to launch an attack on kids, but in this era of monthly (sometimes weekly) school shootings, such a scenario is hardly unfathomable.
We commend the district for being proactive, and surrounding school districts and municipalities should follow Janesville’s lead and find alternative polling sites. It shouldn’t be too difficult. Churches make ideal places to vote, and there’s a church in almost every community. The Janesville City Council on Monday selected two churches and the Rock County Job Center as new polling sites.
Government officials shouldn’t wait for an Election Day tragedy to abandon their school-polling-site setups.
Beyond using their grounds as polling sites, schools should scrutinize other long-held traditions that today constitute security risks. Allowing students to leave campus during lunch, for example, creates a vulnerability by increasing foot traffic in and out of schools. The tighter a school’s security procedures, the safer a school will be.
Meanwhile, a student movement is focused narrowly on gun control as the answer to school shootings. A group of Parkland, Florida, students visited Janesville last week preaching about the need for universal background checks. They blame guns, echoing the beliefs of many of their parents, teachers and school administrators. The Parkland group is undoubtedly sincere, but it’s unfortunate when adults use the youth to advance a political agenda.
Parkland and other students should think beyond gun control: What security measures can schools take today to prevent shooters from entering buildings or at least minimizing the damage once inside? That so many schools continue to use their buildings as polling sites is evidence that many schools don’t fully appreciate the need to tighten security. Thankfully, Janesville does.
Schools that are serious about improving security need financial help, but legislatures across the nation aren’t doing enough. After the Parkland shooting, Wisconsin lawmakers did approve awarding grants for school security, but the dollar amounts don’t come close to what’s truly needed to secure campuses. Also, some legislators are resisting efforts to arm teachers, which we believe would be a cost-effective way to protect students and possibly deter shooters.
School is out until September, but security problems haven’t disappeared, and the next shooter could try to expose them.