A Winter Garden mother of five invited a glass-door company to demonstrate the importance of better safety measures in schools.
With five children attending four different schools next year, Stacie Archer — like every other parent in West Orange County, Florida and the nation — has reason to be concerned about the real threat of gun violence in schools.
The Winter Garden mother said she has created her own role as a “mom advocate” for making schools safer.
“My concern for my kids drives me to do this,” Archer said. “I have petitioned the School Board to take three simple, affordable suggestions and apply them to every school in (Orange County Public Schools). Each of the three suggestions gives the police the five- to seven-minute response time they need to take down a shooter while the kids are safely protected in their classrooms.”
Archer’s three suggestions are to replace the glass windows in every classroom door with bullet-resistant glass, which would prevent a shooter from entering a classroom; define a safety zone in each classroom with a taped line so children know the safest place to take cover until police arrive; and equip each classroom with a GPS beacon that interacts with a panic button on the teachers’ lanyard to inform police of the exact location of the emergency so the response time is lessened and the whereabouts of the shooter is clear.
A bullet-resistant glass window in a wooden classroom door costs about $50, a GPS panic system costs $40,000 per school and a designated “safe zone” in classrooms costs the price of a roll of red duct tape, Archer said.
“To put it into perspective, we could cover these one-time expenses in every school for the salary of one annual SRO (school resource officer) salary,” she said.
Archer reached out to School Guard Glass, the company that replaced all the ground-level glass at Sandy Hook Elementary, in Newtown, Connecticut, following the 2012 shooting that left 20 children and six adults dead.
She arranged a school-hardening presentation, and earlier this month, Matt Jacobsohn, senior national accounts manager, spoke to a group in Winter Garden.
David Buckles, president of Foundation Academy, agreed to provide space on the south campus for the demonstration after he was contacted by Rep. Bobby Olszewski. However, Buckles said, the school has no plans to contract with School Guard Glass at this time.
One of the guest speakers during the presentation was Andrew Pollack, who became a school safety activist after his 18-year-old daughter, Meadow, was killed in the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, Parkland, shooting Feb. 14 that claimed the lives of 14 students and three adults.
Speaking via Skype, Pollack said he has been working hard to promote school safety in Florida. He believes metal detectors are the answer.
“It’s most important to stop someone before they get inside,” he said.
After Pollack spoke, Jacobsohn directed everyone outside for a demonstration of the bullet-resistant glass his company offers. He took a baseball bat, hammer and sledgehammer to doors with various glass products. The School Guard Glass shattered, but he was unable to completely break through.
Several politicians attended the discussion, including Olszewski.
“There is not just one answer when it comes to school hardening,” he said. “We have to look at every facet of school safety.”
Olszewski said he voted in favor of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas School Safety Act, which provided almost $100 million for school hardening, as well as $400 million in funding for mental health services.
In addition, he said, more school resource officers are being hired to help patrol and protect schools and safety measures are being added to prevent people with mental illnesses, or those deemed to be a threat to themselves or others, from getting weapons, Olszewski said.
“It is essential that we take critical steps to secure and harden our schools to keep our children, teachers and staff safe,” Olszewski said. “The School Safety Commission … is in the first phase of taking a detailed and deliberative look at what went wrong in our current system and what we can do to help make sure this never happens again. The recommendations and findings of this commission will also help guide elected leaders at every level to give guidance on how we can ensure our Florida schools are the safest place in the country.”
Pollack praised Archer for her new role as mom advocate.
“I’d like to tell everyone it starts with small meetings like this and it grows, and that’s how you make a difference,” Pollack said.