A Science for Everyone, Community, Demography

Statistically Remote Doesn’t Mean Impossible

My post-Uvalde thoughts move toward hardening our own little school.  School shootings are always statistically unlikely.  The timeline at Uvalde shows that at 11:27, a teacher props the door open. It remains open for 6 minutes before the crazy little bastard enters the school.  He doesn’t close it – the door remains open and is the access point for police.  A safety protocol broke down.  The crazy little bastard had a six-minute window of opportunity.  Twenty-one people died and 17 more were wounded.  Six minutes.

In demography, our phrase is “Malthus only has to be right once.”  I listened to a Fed describing terrorist attacks  – “They have to get lucky once.  We have to get it right every day.”  The exercise showed how hard that was.  A teacher, secure in the misbelief that a statistically unlikely event wouldn’t happen, propped a door open.  For 6 minutes.  The crazy got in.  The statistically unlikely event happened.  We play poker hoping for statistically unlikely events to occur. 

It’s easy to look at the police failures – but the initial failure was the teacher who wedged the door open . . . secure in the belief that there was no risk in violating that simple safety protocol.  Staying alert, maintaining security against something that does not occur, day after day, is difficult. 

I can think of many situations where a teacher wouldn’t want to keep unlocking the door.  It’s Spring – the time when contracts are, or are not renewed.  We’ve had that this year at Trego – and seen a bit of hostility over it.  It gives me a perspective that, in Uvalde, the shooter gained access not through police failure, but through a teacher’s carelessness.  I can understand both carelessness and resentment.

I have forgotten the name of the teacher who left his female engineering students to be killed at the Montreal Polytechnique Massacre.  I hope he came to some sort of grips with his failure – I know I could not have accepted that decision had it been mine.  Perhaps the Uvalde teacher who spent 20 lives for easier access to the door can come to grips with that conduct.  I would hate to have to rationalize it had it been my blunder.

It is difficult to stay constantly on the alert for the statistically unlikely occurrence.  Years of boredom are eventually interrupted by a few minutes of stark terror.  Uvalde’s police, like Parkland’s, made poor choices – but the timeline shows that a teacher who propped the door open had the best opportunity to eliminate the shooter’s opportunity.  Was it just casual carelessness?  Was it carelessness coupled with resentment?  I do not know – but I have read the pricetag, and it was too high.