Bullet Proof School

This is Rosa Parks Elementary school in City Heights, one of the highest crime areas of San Diego when the school was built. Parents were involved in the design. It is surrounded by bars but they don’t look like bars; they look like sculpture.

Back then — from 1987 to 2003 — this was my neighborhood.Β When I moved away, there were cops at all the entrances every morning and evening. The cop shop was within sight of this school and it wasn’t unusual for a cop to go through a kid’s backpack. The Florida school that recently endured the shooting is making kids carry clear backpacks. It’s a start.

It was built during the height of the 90s shooting wave — drive bys, gang wars, drug wars — all those weaponized urban wars that motivated California to change the gun laws. The change actually succeeded in reducing gun crimes. Any rational person can appreciate a reduction in gun crimes. Elimination is better, but reduction is good.

The green space that was once a scuzzy city park next door to this school is now a place to play baseball. It is overlooked by the park services (they are law enforcement and their headquarters is next to the park) and Rosa Parks school. It is now a safe place for people to go. I remember when it wasn’t.

The school itself quickly became a safe gathering point for lots of neighborhood events and a weekend clinic. It’s beautiful and loved and valued. It is EXTREMELY multicultural because the neighborhood is one where new immigrants often set up their first home in America.



Is this not a beautiful and inspiring story telling place?


This business about kids being killed in schools has been addressed in locations in the United States where life is or has been dangerous. Should life be dangerous? No. Should we have to worry about kids being shot in school? No.

But we DO have to worry about it.

Too much time is spent trying to dispute or argue the true meaning of the Second Amendment, whether guns kill people or not, whether a person has a right to a weapon of war for self-defense. It’s irrelevant. I think the ONLY way to deal with the reality of the gun culture in this country is to make schools much, much safer for kids.

I can’t even carry a Swiss army knife on an airplane (“Uh, excuse, I want to knife you, but I need a minute to get my knife open”) or a large bottle of hand lotion or shampoo! And we have schools that are open to any jackass who wants to bring in a gun because we don’t want our schools to be “fortresses.” As Rosa Parks in City Heights in San Diego proves, they don’t have to look like fortresses to BE fortresses.

I think school districts, states, cities, parents need to evaluate existing safe schools and learn from them, then, come together as they did when this school was planned and MAKE the schools safe. Fuck our government. It doesn’t care. Should it? Yes, but it doesn’t. All those splendid expensive Trumpian walls could be built around our schools. The security systems employed on the border could be used in schools.

The NRA only has the power we give it. People have power of their own but it needs to be claimed (and not in marches of impotence) and it needs to be directed toward change. Frankly, the march yesterday disgusted me. It’s not the kids’ job to go out there and march for safety in their schools. That they felt they had to is disgusting. That they believe it will change something is naive.

19 thoughts on “Bullet Proof School

  1. As I read this, it occurred to me that a similar fence would be appropriate for the President’s Border Wall — if he has to build a wall. Although I don’t believe that a wall will accomplish anything, this fence could be built a little taller, and with a more impermeable top, and be pretty effective. While I hear your last few comments, I was pleased to see young leaders leading, and acting on their beliefs, naive as they may be. Perhaps these will become more effective leaders than we have now.

    • It’s like that in many of the places where one has already been erected, like on the border with Tijuana.

      I agree. What those kids are doing is for themselves and the future in which they will live. I am very happy to see them engaged and happy to see their naivete — if kids didn’t believe they could change the world, the world wouldn’t change. I loved that about the uncountable college freshman I taught through the years. It could drive me bonkers, but I got what it was and I supported it. I just feel that this is a situation that happened because we adults haven’t taken it seriously enough. That makes me so angry and so sad. I feel we’ve betrayed them because we’re not focused on what we should be. 😦

      • I agree that we (the parents of the country) have betrayed the kids, and have not made a point of protecting them as we should have. I don’t believe that arming teachers is the answer, nor is home schooling. The example of Rosa Parks School is powerful — I hope others become aware of that example. California has among the strictest gun control laws, and yet there are some severe loopholes, even here ~ ~ loopholes which could jeopardize any gathering.

        The proliferation of mass shootings has led to serious concern about being in public places with large groups of other people. A day or two after the Florida incident, I was in a restaurant, and observed a well-dressed businessman walk through with a gun in a holster — should I have said something to somebody; if so, to whom; or should I have assumed, as I did, that there was nothing amiss in the rest of his demeanor and kept quiet? I’ve ruminated over that one since then.

      • Open carry is thought (by open carryers) to be protection “Good guys with guns” vs “Bad guys with guns.” I think they live in a cartoon reality.

        ALL my neighbors in CA had guns, MANY guns. One afternoon I was (divorced single woman who’d lived in the hood for a decade or more) gardening in front. I loved my neighborhood. We were all friends. We were a very tight community. One neighbor (a retarded guy, not very retarded, but still retarded) came over to show me an antique Chinese table top cannon he’d bought. Another neighbor was there and said, “Oh I have a Winchester!” he went home got his old rifle, then the next door neighbor had a cool gun and then the slightly retarded guy had another cool gun and pretty soon there were a dozen guns on my front lawn.

        When the woman across the street died, her house was empty but furnished. Her stupid son left her little dog at the house. I fed him every day while I tried to figure out what to do. One evening I went over to feed him, and saw all the lights were on. I walked past the bedroom window and there was a shot gun lying on the bed. Someone had broken into the hosue and was in the process of stealing her guns. I tip-toed out of her yard, went home and called the cops. I also got the number of my neighbor’s son’s inlaws and told them about the dog.

        Another time, the house on the corner was broken into. The cops came. I had the horrifying experience of watching a 6 year old kid carrying a loaded pistol (correctly, pointed down, held by thumb and forefinger) to the police and handing it over.

        Here, of course, people hunt their food every fall. Everyone has at least one gun.

        I think we need to face up to the fact that Americans like guns and figure out how to deal with that. It’s true that most people — the vast majority of people — are not going to shoot up a school or a street concert, but it doesn’t take a lot of people to do a lot of damage. I believe in strong gun control laws. I saw my neighborhood in California become a LOT safer after the law changed even though all the gun stories I wrote above happened AFTER the law changed. It really did work just to make it harder for people to get some kinds of guns and to change the punishment.

      • I’m quite conflicted when it comes to gun collectors and target shooters — they are entitled to their hobbies, and the vast majority of those two groups are responsible owners. And those who hunt for food, during hunting season, are also pretty responsible (unless they are named Cheney). But in each of these groups there is the one person who is not responsible, or whose homes are violated, etc. If it’s a truism that guns don’t kill, it’s also a truism that people with guns do kill — that’s only another part of the problem, but an important part, and it must also be true that people without guns don’t use them to kill!

      • People with guns kill other people, but that doesn’t mean ALL people with guns kill people, or ONLY people with guns kill people, though gun people will hammer that argument as if that’s what the statement says. OH well.

        On a lighter note: https://youtu.be/mmtX6Tj74oU

        I think (as I wrote) the NRA can endow schools with security equipment out of their vast monetary resources and everyone will be happy (and safer).

      • Agreed — and I think it’s an excellent idea that the NRA could “fortify” the schools — after all they were established to promote gun safety! Thank you, too, for that wonderful lighter-note piece — I was a bit frustrated because I didn’t have a way to lighten the conversation! Maybe we should try giving the guns to monkeys and see what happens!

  2. That school looks like the community take a lot of pride in it. Not fortress like at all.

    When I first moved to our town, there were no fences around the schools. Now they’ve all got them. The fences are there to stop vandals getting in. So while the schools took an initial hit to the budget, they have since recouped the cost in savings made not having to replace windows, etc.

    I particularly like the mosaics. πŸ™‚

  3. I’m just thankful the NRA doesn’t start supporting individual ownership of nuclear weapons. Fits right in there with the right to bear arms.. don’t you think?

  4. I agree that a fortified school does not have to look like a fortress. In this instance, it undoubtedly helps having the police across the street, too, and the park service next door. That certainly isn’t the case for all schools. The mosaics are really nice.

    What I disagree with is this idea that we need to lock our children away to protect them. We are constantly allowing the few crazies and terrorists out there to curtail our freedoms and dictate how we live. Those silly restrictions at the airport you mention are part of that. They make me nuts! And they don’t make me feel safer at all, just buggered.

    Sometimes I think I should marvel that I’m alive today, given my childhood: no helmets, talked with strangers, rode my bike all over the place, very little adult supervision. Given my recklessness and some bad choices, I could have ended up much worse. But I really think that not having overprotective parents was good for my development.

    What we need are saner gun laws in this country like the rest of the world (obviously not going to happen before 2020). I read in the NYT today the phrase that the second amendment is “enshrined in our constitution.” No part of the constitution is sacrosanct, as I argued in this piece: https://myricopia.com/2018/02/26/we-are-not-powerless/

    • I think the freedom to continue to be alive is the paramount freedom. Everything else follows after that.

      My point is that if we are NOT going to have saner gun laws, then we should protect our kids. I don’t see saner gun laws happening in this country any time soon, if ever. If what’s happened already hasn’t inspired that change, what will?

      2020 is a gamble, too. We have no idea what will happen in that election. I agree with you philosophically, but I don’t think philosophy is very useful. Heck, my philosophy is that people will someday be so aware and wise they won’t need government at all! You can ask me how that’s working out…

      This school was built with the stated intention of keeping the kids in it safe. It’s not the only school like that. It really changed the neighborhood for the better.

      • I realize that we will just agree to disagree on this matter. That is fine. I like the goal of no gubmint! Just mucks things up for everyone. But we do need to deal with the wackos.

        The wrong way to deal with them is people wanting to read lurid news, which the media happily spoon-feed them. The mass murderers get their fame, even if they die in the process – they don’t care.

        I refuse to read stories about these men (always men, right?). I will read about their victims. Voting with my “clicks” you could say. But I can’t change it by myself.

      • I’m not sure we disagree. I think we just have different experiences and points of view. I agree with you — I just don’t think we have that kind of time. 😦

      • In a hundred years or so, everyone around today will be gone. (Cheery thought, eh?!) I do hope these young whipper-snappers get some better things going! I choose not to worry how it will all work out. But I WILL vote. Every time.

      • I don’t worry, either. At the end of my teaching career, sick of wrangling with poorly educated, spoiled, entitled and ignorant shits (the minority, but enough…) I hung up my gloves and thought, “It’s your world now, sweet cheeks,” and came back to Colorado. ❀ I taught students who didn't know Greek is a modern language and argued with me when I tried to explain it was. They GOOGLED it because they didn't think the "old" teacher knew. That was the last straw. πŸ˜€

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