Friday, March 21, 2008
Because of a decision made by the NHUSD Superintendent, Pat Jaurequi, Logan principal, Don Montoya and the NHUSD School Board, access to James Logan will be reduced to four guarded entrances beginning March 31. Only those with proper identification will be permitted to enter the school grounds. According to Don Montoya, the purpose of this radical and draconic reconfiguration is to keep non students and unauthorized adults off of campus, thereby ensuring a safer campus. This decision was made without any consultation with the Logan faculty, Logan students, or Logan’s School Site Council. As presented at the Logan Faculty meeting and to the students over the intercom, it was an administrative fiat, an order from the authorities to be obeyed and not questioned.
Absent as emergency, there is no justification for this action without prior consultation with the Logan community. My initial reaction to the decision was to want to know what prompted it. Were there valid reasons? From Mr. Montoya’s e mail to the faculty about the Security Audit and an Argus story about the proposed reconfiguration, I could find none. The only reason given by Mr. Montoya for turning Logan into what can be described as a “green zone” compound (a tightly secured area to fend off the dangers of post 9/11 America) is to make Logan safer by keeping out non students and unauthorized adults. The Security Audit reported we had too many ways for people to get on and off campus if we wanted to close the campus to outsiders. The report did not document that Logan was in any serious danger from outsiders. No evidence has been presented that I am aware of that non students and unauthorized adults are any more of a threat to cause harm on campus than one of the planes that fly over the campus crashing into it. The shootings of late certainly do not justify it. There have been off campus shootings in the area off and on for the 33 plus year I have been here and the campus has never been closed down or attacked by outsiders.
So why close the campus down now? The decision is consistent with Americans’ post 9/11 obsession for security. Since 9/11, leaders at all levels have been willing to jettison our historic principles centered around our belief in freedom for more security. This security movement is made possible by using the greatest threat to freedom which is fear. When leaders make the people believe that there is a dangerous enemy ready to destroy them you get McCarthyism, the Patriot Act, the Iraqi War, and Logan’s reconfiguration.
The recent shootings in Union City are being used by NHUSD authorities to scare the Logan community into accepting the Logan “green zone” concept. To illustrate, the shooting in December prompted an unusually severe reaction at Logan, including the hiring of teachers to patrol the school before school, during lunch, and after school. During this alert, Mr. Montoya kept the faculty informed that he was following up on rumors of danger and that faculty should send him any rumors they came across. During this crisis period no fewer than three times during my lunch period I passed through the curriculum center to the front of the school on my way to the main office. The gate into Colt Court was guarded by a colleague with a walkie talkie. On leaving the office, I went through Colt Court and each time I passed I observed from three to four administrators standing together talking and laughing. I asked myself is there really a threat from the outside? If so, why is my colleague on the front line and these people are here? I knew the answer immediately. They were there because the threat was really not from the outside, it was inside where it always has been and still is - from a few students with IDs, ones who will pass through the guarded checkpoints in the “green zone” beginning March 31. Not surprisingly we have a new supervision procedure aimed at controlling the ID students inside the “green zone”. A safer school?
In my view the Logan “green zone” compound plan does nothing to make Logan any safer. Instead, all the plan does is make Logan and Union City appear as the most dangerous area in the Bay Area. The plan will not stop the on campus fights or other transgressions that occur on campus. It will not stop a Columbine. Students presently come on campus with baseball bats, , skateboards, and that bags that could contain weapons. Only metal detectors and skin searches will reduce that possibility; the four entrances won’t. Nor will it stop unauthorized adults or non students from coming on campus if they are determined to. They will climb right over or squeeze under the fences as I have observed students do on occasion. They will probe for other holes in the compound. Also, they find ways to forge fake ID’s as students did when the administration tried to mandate wearing them to class several years ago. So unless we are going to have perimeter patrols, or watchtowers and razor wire, the Logan “green zone” will not be safe from the alleged unauthorized persons threat.
What the “green zone” concept does do is make Logan appear as a dangerous place to send your child. It makes Union City appear as a dangerous place to live. People who have children won’t buy a house in a community that is so dangerous that its high school has had to turn itself into a “green zone”. Why send your child to that kind of school if you have a choice? It also will make Logan more dangerous in the mornings when students are trying squeeze through the four check points and at the end of the school day when they try to get out those exits. With so few exits, emergencies such as an explosion, earthquake, or fire could endanger the lives of us all. Tardies will increase dramatically, and students not wanting to go to class for some reason will claim not to have their ID’s. There are numerous other problems that will require more fencing and even steel bars to secure the place. Once we start down the path to secure Logan from danger, we will be forever finding holes in our system. Overall, all that the “green zone” plan does is make life more difficult for the students and the faculty and the parents. Worse yet, it disparages the image of Logan and of Union City.
Logan’s mission should be to create a curriculum that will allow students to excel academically and to develop students who can participate as citizens in a democratic political culture within a diverse human society that is committed to the principles of equality and freedom. The Logan ‘green zone” compound concept totally compromises the mission. To teach students going to school in a “green zone” that they live in a free society seems disingenuous. The new “safer” Logan will be a disconnect from American principles and will actually contribute to undercutting those principles.
All us would we well advised to remember Franklin D. Roosevelt’s warning to Americans in 1933, “ that the only thing we have to fear is fear itself-nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror. . . .” This is something to think about! The choice is yours when it comes to freedom or security.