Planning Our Way to Safer Schools and Churches.. or Not

Colorado school staff on the firing line
Colorado school staff on the firing line

U.S.A. -( Protecting innocent people is serious business. Smart men and women gave it a lot of thought. We now know a lot about mass murderers. We know how to prevent some of their attacks on our schools and churches. Unfortunately, we don’t know enough to stop all of them and we probably never will. That means we need an effective response to an attack in addition to a program of prevention. I emphasize the word effective because we can call anything a “safety program”. An effective program addresses the largest threats before it focuses on the less likely or less dangerous threats. Here are two stories about protecting our schools and churches.. or not.

Defend Them or Leave Them Defenseless

I read reports from local school boards who are considering school safety. Someone invariably says something like this.

‘It isn’t fair making teachers protect their students.’

I agree. It is not fair. Neither is it fair to go to funerals after innocent people are murdered because defending them was considered too unpleasant or inconvenient. There is more to say about armed staff, but courts recently confirmed that the police have no duty to protect us. That appies at home, at church, and at school. Fortunately, there are church and school staff who want to be protectors as well as educators. It makes my heart leap that we have such men and women.

Faster School Training Safety Students Guns Teachers
Faster School Training Safety Students Guns Teachers

Some school boards will accept their duty to keep our children safe. In contrast, some school boards and church governing boards will say it is society’s problem to stop mass murderers. Those two choices lead to very different endings.

That leads us to our first truth.

It is extremely dangerous to expect the world we want..
..and refuse to see the world we have.

Our society creates murderers and our media rewards them. We should protect innocent people at schools and at churches as long as that threat remains. We don’t have to give up our ideals to protect our kids. We can make progress in this imperfect world and also want to change the world for the better.

The school of clear-thinking will adopt a self-defense program. The church of perpetual idealism will not.

Not Quite Ready for Church or School

Security is a real world problem. We have years of experience protecting our schools and churches. Churches and schools formed regional groups that shared the lessons they’d learned. You might think that adopting a security program would be a well established process. It isn’t. The school board and school staff customize the security plan to fit a particular school.

It is easy to confuse these plans with reality; to confuse how we hope things will happen with the chaos of an attack. There is tremendous temptation to define every detail. You can delay a program forever by constantly adding to it and rewriting it.

That takes us to our second truth.

The lure of perfection in the future delays progress in the present.

Effective plans are a work in progress. The church of incremental improvement implemented an imperfect plan that they will revise in six months. The school of perpetual procrastination formed another study committee to recommend a schedule for studying a security plan.

Politics or Wisdom

Sometimes, school security teams uncover a deficiency in state law. That can be a significant problem because large political forces influence state regulators. For example, how can our school or church be protected when a School Resource Officer or an off-duty police officer isn’t present? Is it safe for our children to be there? Should we shut the school down? There is no guarantee that best practice will be enacted into legislation. Politics rears its ugly head.

Most legislators stick to the preapproved talking points provided by their political party. Politicians deviate from that routine only when they think they can secure larger campaign contributions. As expected, state employee unions lobby for more money and power.

That leads us to our next truth.

Most legislation is designed to promote the legislator
rather than promote the general welfare.

Fortunately, these legislators and special interests will do the right thing when they are forced to do so by public demand. We simply have to apply enough political pressure that it is in their interest to do the right thing. Politics is determined by those who show up, testify, call, and donate. This separates the keyboard commandos from those of us who want to save our children.

Are Those Rules or Needs?

Don’t underestimate the detrimental effect of political lobbying. Changing a few words in legislation can turn a realistic safety plan into waste paper. We want school staff trained to protect their students but we don’t need these defenders to become police officers. School defenders don’t have to conduct high-speed pursuits or transports prisoners from one jail to another. Staff don’t need to secure chains of evidence.

That training simply isn’t necessary to protect our children. The instructors who established the national training requirements for School Resource Officers only needed three days to train school staff to become armed first responders.

That leads us to another truth about protecting our schools and churches.

Most law enforcement training is designed to indemnify the institution
rather than to deliver essential skills to the trainee.

Of course, more training is better, but most law enforcement training isn’t applicable for school staff. Don’t let bureaucrats distract you. What is important for them is not necessarily important for us. Don’t confuse a bureaucrat’s interests with the personal accountability of volunteer defenders.

Testing and Development

One thing is certain. Security plans change..and they should. You won’t protect your congregation next year in the same way you’re protecting them today. For one thing, plans change as the existing staff gets more training and as new staff are brought onboard. One of the benchmarks of any mature safety program is a walkthrough with other agencies like the fire department, EMTs, and the local law enforcement agencies.

That exercise inevitably uncovers necessary improvements. Depending on the campus, where should police park their cars and advance on foot? Where should healthy students shelter until they are reunited with their families? We learn a lot as we different organizations try and work together.

That leads us to our last truth.

In theory, theory never fails. Test the plan before you adopt the plan into daily practice.

Ideas that look good on paper don’t always work as planned. A healthy organization sees this as an opportunity to improve their program and make the school safer.

Hard Knocks High School will either train or tests their security plan once a month. The Saint Pollyanna Day School never tried to lock their doors.

The Greatest is All of Them

Whatever we do today is only a starting place. We make our children safer with a thousand small decisions made day after day. Every effective safety program is a shifting mixture of new ideas and time tested techniques. Laws and governing boards have to allow that growth.

We know too much to leave our schools and churches vulnerable. Don’t let politics leave our children at risk. Not at the your state capital, not at your school board, and not at your church governing board. In the final analysis, it is up to us, not them.

Slow Facts

About Rob Morse

The original article is here.  Rob Morse writes about gun rights at Ammoland, at Clash Daily, and on his SlowFacts blog. He hosts the Self Defense Gun Stories Podcast and co-hosts the Polite Society Podcast. Rob is an NRA pistol instructor and combat handgun competitor.

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Based on reports from past school shootings a lot of teachers try to protect their students by shielding them with their body, so what is wrong is to expect a teacher to protect students without having any way to defend themselves. Train them and arm them so they have a better chance of survival.


Just as it is a question for the CCW individual, off duty LEO’s so it is for “protectors” of children. When encountering a situation in which it is clear that innocents need defending against a clear perpetrator of violence an armed civilian makes a choice to get involved or not. Putting aside for the moment the issue of bravery or morality one of the increasingly relevant question one in that situation needs to answer is “what happens after the incident is resolved?” Call me a coward if you will but I have made my decision already, before I’m involved in… Read more »

Dave in Fairfax

Joe, I agree that there needs to be a Good Samaritan law involved, as well as an immunity against civil suit or legal liability. If that can be arranged, the administration would have no need to throw people under the (school)bus. Whether to assume risk is something each of us has to do on their own. I don’t call anyone a coward because they are afraid of being shot, it isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. There is a real danger of being shot by the police by mistake. Some sort of identifier will be needed do try to… Read more »

Paul Cavallaro

Correct about politicians only concerned about their future not the constituents:
A very successful politician once told me he could not make any political “hay” by preventing a disaster. Only after the disaster occurs can he swoop in like a super hero, with the media all looking on, and say he has a plan to fix it, or prevent future disasters but the voters must support me in the next election to get this legislation through. (And I noticed the plan usually means taking away some constitutionally guaranteed rights.)

Jack Mac

Yes a lot of them (politicians) lap it up and want more. More blood, more juice. Can’t wait, cause.


Mikhail Kalashnikov is generally credited with saying “Perfection is the enemy of good enough.” Perfection is not a human trait. Politicians who would wait to implement a plan because it may not seem perfect need a dose of reality.


When do politicians ever wait for perfection before implementing laws?! They don’t even wait for “good enough”, or even “good at all”! All that matters to them is, “Looks good to enough uninformed voters.”

Matt in Oklahoma

I have suggested to those who aren’t willing to carry and fight that they consider a willingness to train in trauma medical training. I understand that killing isn’t for everyone but many claim a willingness step up and fight to save lives in the aftermath. I know many of these folks will fail, freeze up and fall apart but the more I can increase the odds the better the chances are.
“Fair” what’s fair got to do with anything in real life?

Roy D.

You and I have known a sizable number of people who wouldn’t put themselves on the line when their job required it. The drive for self preservation is strong enough to override any sense of duty in these people. It is cowardly, shameful, and despicable but it is what it is. Giving someone a gun and some training isn’t going to make them something they are not already. Now allowing those who are natural protectors the means to do it more effectively, that should be the goal. Allowing the rest to provide aid afterwards means that the threat has been… Read more »

John Strosnider

‘It isn’t fair making teachers protect their students.’

I agree, however, I would suggest that it isn’t fair to make a teacher protect their students if the teacher doesn’t want to be such a protector. And, it is equally unfair to prohibit a teacher from protecting their students if they want to be such a protector.

Dave in Fairfax

NOBODY, except those against arming teachers, has EVER suggested forcing teachers to be armed. It has always been put forth as an option for those willing to do it. Bringing it up is a litmus test for which side of the issue the person mentioning it is on.

Wild Bill

@Gentlemen, I disagree. Defending their students should be a requirement of the teaching job. As the public school situation stands, teachers see no duty towards their students. No duty to make sure that those students learn or even think critically. Just show up, say your lesson plan piece, pass them all, and have a nice day. We have come to accept a low educational standard. There is no Right to be employed in the public teaching occupation. So we can design that job description to include student defense, if we, as a nation, want to. And if the requirement to… Read more »

Dave in Fairfax

Wild Bill, I understand your premise but I can’t agree on a couple of points. Most teachers are highly underpaid and forced to teach what they teach by their administrations and the government, they don’t have a lot of leeway. They spend a large amount of their personal income on their students because the school systems either aren’t willing, or financially able, to take care of them. My daughter was a teacher in Title One schools for years. She provided food, clothing and student supplies out of her own pocket, and mine. Many teachers are capable, and desirous, of protecting… Read more »

Wild Bill

, Well, I would hope that everyone would chose to better themselves and become more than what they are by nature. Or what is a weight room for? And on the topic of bettering one’s self what is “OTOH”?
Merry Christmas, patriot.

Dave in Fairfax

A Merry Christmas you too, sir. It means, On The Other Hand. I’d like to believe that people try to better themselves, but I’ve seen people who have places of power refuse to protect either themselves or others. Worse, they’ve refused to learn from their mistakes because they honestly don’t see them as mistakes. Some people run towards the gunfire, some hide behind the cars outside. Job title and training don’t seem to be what matters. I’d like to believe in rainbows and unicorns, but I’ve been smacked too many times. I believe what I see, and only half of… Read more »

Robert Messmer

“OTOH” means On The Other Hand

Wild Bill

Gentlemen, Thank you for the definition. I never would have guessed. TOC, FEBA, TOT and CEOI, yes, but OTOH … silly me! Good luck with that house full of liberal relatives over Christmas dinner!

Ansel Hazen

Agree with Bill. If a teacher isn’t willing to take responsibility for the safety of the kids in their class they need to resign.

Wild Bill

@AH, Merry Christmas, patriot, and a Happy New pile of shiny ammunition bought on sale!