A federal judge ruled this week that neither the police nor the school system had any duty to protect students at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High during the shooting that claimed 17 lives last year.
U.S. District Judge Beth Bloom dismissed a lawsuit filed by several students of the school. She claims that the duty to protect only applies to prisoners and others who are being held in state custody involuntarily. Kids, apparently, are on their own. The motion filed by the judge, according to the Miami Herald, explains, incredibly, that children in school have “the ability to take care of themselves.” Bloom also argued that the shooter was not a “state actor.” Which is an entirely irrelevant point that nobody disputes.
This is not the first time that the courts have relieved law enforcement of any legal obligation to actually protect the citizens who are paying their salaries. Bloom has precedent on her side, if not rationality or sound moral reasoning. But this case isn’t exactly the same as some of the others that have dealt with similar issues. At Stoneman Douglas, the cop who cowered outside while children were slaughtered at their desks was a school resource officer. His whole job was to see to the safety of those very kids. If a school resource officer has no duty to protect the children at the school where he is stationed, then the position is pointless. A school resource officer with no duty to protect is essentially just a piece of moving furniture, taking up space and wasting money.
The other difference between this and superficially similar cases is that kids are legally required to attend school. Judge Bloom didn’t find this point relevant, but it is indeed extremely relevant. Truancy is a crime. You could go to jail if your kid doesn’t show up for class. It is simply beyond the pale to claim that the state has no duty to ensure the safety of the kids whose attendance they have legally mandated. Duty should not be a one way street. It should not be, in a free country, that parents have a duty to send their children to school but schools have no duty to see to the well-being of those children, and citizens have a duty to obey the police but police have no duty to protect and serve those citizens. This is how things work in a dictatorship, not a free republic. Not a country where agents of the state claim the title “public servants.”
Fortunately, though we may not look like a free republic in many respects, we do still have the Bill of Rights. The second article in that document is even more crucial given this ruling. We have the right to arm ourselves. We would be wise to take advantage of this right. The state may decide to help us out if we’re in trouble, but it may not. It evidently recognizes no obligations either way. Perhaps a police officer will come charging into harm’s way to rescue us, like the hero cops in Pittsburgh. Perhaps they will hide behind a tree, like the coward in Broward. It is better not to pin your hopes on that roll of the dice.
Of course, the Second Amendment can do little for our children in the public school system. They will still be exposed and vulnerable, and the authority that has taken them into its custody will not necessarily promise to shield them when the bullets start flying. Perhaps that’s another good reason to keep your kids out of the system entirely.