When I was in school the doors were open. Kids were free to frolic and learn.  We were fearful that the Russians might drop a nuclear bomb on us, and we participated in drills that certainly wouldn't have saved us if the bomb were really dropped.  But that existential threat came from someone else, a country far away.  Today schools are locked up tight so crazy grownups can't get in without being vetted, and kids today also have to worry about each other.  That is truly frightening.

Over the years covering school board meetings where security measures were being discussed, I told myself that our little rural town is actually safe, and our district was just getting on the bandwagon fueled by national news stories about school shootings.  The problem is that I am pretty sure that's what parents of children at Columbine, Sandy Hook, Margery Stoneman Douglas schools thought.  If they did, they were wrong.  Those three incidents alone resulted in 56 deaths, most of them children.

At the Lansing schools front offices were moved to the literal front door of each school.  Outside doors are locked.  Visitors must sign in.  There are surveillance cameras, teachers and staff are trained for emergencies, police scan for illicit substances...  It's like the plot of a spy movie where the hero has to get through a gauntlet of security obstacles in order to save the heroine.  A parent asked the school board this Monday what measures were being taken to vet volunteers in the schools before they are allowed to be near children.  Clearly worries about violent attacks in our schools have become a part of American culture.

We don't have armed guards in the Lansing schools.  Yet.  After all, we're still a small, safe, rural community.  But it isn't too hard to imagine that we will have them in the not too distant future.

Back in 2006 I covered the creation of a local Sex Offender law.  Then Councilman Bud Shattuck brought up the idea during what is usually an innocuous section at the end of town board meetings when each councilperson reports on their activities.  The Town Board passed the local law in 2006.  At the time the Sex Offender Registry listed a number of offenders in 14882, including a Level 1 sex offender who, at the time, lived within 1,000 feet from Ludlowville Park.

Checking the State Sex Offender Registry this afternoon, I found four sex offenders living in 14882 who are registered because of deviate sexual intercourse and sexual contact with 11 and 14 year old females, deviate sexual intercourse and sexual contact with  a nine year old male, deviate sexual intercourse and sexual contact with a 14 year old female, and deviate sexual intercourse and sexual contact with 13 and 14 year old females.

My point is that kids can't frolic care free any more.  Kids can't help but see the security measures at their schools and worry about why they are there.  It is certainly good for everybody to be aware of potential threats, especially to children, to help prevent bad things from happening. But being aware of these kinds of threats certainly torpedoes modern children's ability to be children with innocent wonder.

I don't see any path back to the time when kids could be innocent.  Not to belittle the nuclear bomb attack Civil Defense drills in a time when images of Nikita Khrushchev banging his shoe on his desk to get the General Assembly's attention in 1960 were plentiful in newspapers and on TV...  if someone that crazy could launch missiles that could hit our schools, there was reason to be afraid.  But it was a different kind of fear.  Fearing a crazy Russian guy is a lot different from fearing the kids you go to class with every day.

That is terrifying.  Because a lonely, bullied classmate acting out his or her rage is very much right there in kids' every day reality.  And, as we have seen, the consequences are devastating.