One bad thing about Florida: fences around the schools and their athletic fields

Most comparisons of Florida to our former home in Maskachusetts are positive. The infrastructure here is new, shiny, and smooth. The landscaping in higher income parts of Florida is beautiful (palm trees, flowers, etc.) and that includes our neighborhood of Abacoa, the campus of Florida Atlantic University, the sidewalk behind the beach in Jupiter, etc.

One serious disfigurement of the landscape, however, is that every public school is surrounded in chainlink fence. Where a neighborhood would once have had a nice community feature, i.e., some grass fields on which to stroll or cut across, there is now a big no-go zone that looks like a medium-security prison. You never realized how many public schools a typical town has until you visit a place where schools and their grounds are entirely fenced!

It seems that this is a relatively recent disfigurement… “Fencing among school safety upgrades” (July 7, 2019):

One of the many safety measures school districts must implement to protect school children under a new Florida law is putting fencing up around their schools.

Florida lawmakers passed strict measures after one of the deadliest school shootings in Amercian history when 17 students were gunned down and 17 others were wounded at Marjory Douglas Stoneman High School in Parkland on Feb. 14, 2018.

Charlie Morse, safety director for the Walton County School District, said two schools this summer will get fencing but, “We don’t want it to look like a correctional facility.

Well… Guess what? When you have a big two-story building surrounded by grass that is then surrounded by 6′-high chainlink fence, it looks exactly like a correctional facility!

The U.S. always had prisons, but now in Florida you can own a $2 million house that is right next to what looks like a prison. (I wonder if these hideous new creations have devalued houses that formerly got a boost from being near the greenspace of a school.)

I’m not sure what the convention/custom was before the fencing went up, but currently it seems that the taxpayers are barred from any access to the school fields at any time. There are a couple of chokepoints where cars can drive through the fence, but I think these are closed after school hours. In any case, I have never seen anyone on a school field after school hours.

Even if the Second Amendment were repealed, and President Harris confiscated all privately owned guns, the fences would stay up forever, right? There might still be someone with a gun in the basement and there is no price too high to pay for children’s safety, I am sure everyone will agree.

At the very least, Florida proves that this is truly a horrible idea for suburban/urban planning. In addition to being ugly, the fenced schools present an obstacle to getting around on foot (essential in a country that will soon have a population 400+ million and no congestion pricing for the roads).


  • “Nikolas Cruz’s birth mom had a violent, criminal past. Could it help keep him off Death Row?” (Miami Herald), regarding the perpetrator of the shooting that led to the above rule: His birth mother, Brenda Woodard, was sometimes homeless, and panhandled for money on a highway exit ramp. His adoptive mother, Lynda Cruz, stayed home to manage a 4,500-square-foot, five-bedroom house in the suburbs, with a two-car garage and a sprawling yard. A career criminal, Woodard’s 28 arrests include a 2010 charge for beating a companion with a tire iron; she also threatened to burn the friend’s house down. Lynda Cruz had a clean record. Conventional wisdom suggests that Nikolas Cruz should have taken after the woman who raised him from birth, rather than the one who shared only his DNA. But little of Cruz’s story is conventional. While, by most accounts, Lynda Cruz was thoughtful and disciplined, her adoptive son was violent and impulsive — characteristics he seems to share with the birth mother he never knew. (i.e., follow the science, except when science tells you that criminality is heritable; see also The Son Also Rises and this scholarly article regarding Nikolas Cruz’s sister)

32 thoughts on “One bad thing about Florida: fences around the schools and their athletic fields

  1. What bad guy would be stopped by a chain link fence? They’re easy to climb over or smash through with a vehicle.

    • Dan: That’s a good point, but also it is possible to go to the front door of the school, I think. A sign says that visitors are supposed to check in at an office, but what if the visitor is bad? He/she/ze/they could open the front door, walk into the school, and start shooting before requesting a visitor badge. That’s pretty much what Brenda Woodard’s son did (it seems unfair to refer to him by the name of his adoptive parents since #Science tells us that they had virtually no influence on his personality or behavior; see ).

  2. I don’t understand the logic behind fencing up the schools except as a pure fear response. Nikolas Cruz called and Uber and was driven to MSD High. He told the driver that his gun case contained a guitar and he was going to a music class at 2:00 in the afternoon:

    “The Uber driver said she arrived at a location on Loxahatchee Road in Parkland, the area where Cruz was living, and picked up Cruz, who climbed in the back seat carrying a big object…I saw him with a backpack which I thought was a guitar case. He told me I am going to my music class,” said the Uber driver who asked CBS 4 News to conceal her identity.”

    He was also spotted by a “staff member” [see below] who radioed it in, but nothing was done:

    “…According to a police report, the shooter was carrying a rifle case[17] and a backpack.[18] He was spotted and recognized by a staff member who radioed a colleague that he was walking “purposefully” toward Building 12.[19][20] However, he did not pursue the shooter or call a “Code Red” to lock down the school.[21]

    The first staff member later claimed that his training called for only reporting threats; his colleague hid in a closet.”

    Do the fences stop people from approaching school entrances? In addition to making the school look dreadful, don’t they also tend to obscure sightlines near the building? Isn’t it harder to make out what someone might be carrying if they’re partially obscured by a fence? Furthermore, aren’t the fences at correctional facilities designed to keep the inmates from getting OUT of the facility?

    [Interesting aside: When that article in Wikipedia was published, I recall that the words “staff member” used to be “security guard.” The fact that Cruz took an Uber to the school seems to have vanished from the article as well.]

    None of that even begins to scratch the service of how badly bungled the response to Nicholas Cruz was at the school, and by the FBI prior to the entire thing happening. They received the tip that told them what he was going to do, and they just didn’t forward it on to the Miami field office! There’s no fence that’s going stop the FBI from not following its own protocols!

    “On January 5, 2018, less than two months before the shooting, the FBI received a tip on its Public Access Line from a person who was close to Cruz. On February 16, two days after the shooting, the agency released a statement that detailed this information. According to the statement, “The caller provided information about Cruz’s gun ownership, desire to kill people, erratic behavior, and disturbing social media posts, as well as the potential of him conducting a school shooting.” After conducting an investigation, the FBI said the tip line did not follow protocol when the information was not forwarded to the Miami Field Office, where investigative steps would have been taken.[117][118] The FBI opened a probe into the tip line’s operations.[119]”

    • @Philg: Also, one of the other important details about the MSD shooting that very few people remember is that Nikolas Cruz was able to blend in with fleeing students and escape, walk to a local mall, go to a McDonalds and grab a soda and hang around for a while before police caught him – because the security camera system in the high school was **on a 20-minute delay** and the police did not know about that.

      He was only there for about seven minutes, but after they finally entered, they thought he was still in the building!

      “The video images were “delayed 20 minutes and nobody told us that,” said Coral Springs Police Chief Tony Pustizzi.”

      The police didn’t arrest him until 3:40 pm, about an hour and a half after the shooting began. If he had gotten in another Uber, he could have been 60 miles away or more before they even realized he was gone! What kind of fencing is going to stop those kinds of crazy?

      I’ll bet there was a **LOT** of money spent on all the fencing though. As you point out, Florida has a lot of schools. Lots of people must have gotten millions of dollars in contracts. It would be very interesting to see who got the money.

  3. There are no school shootings in France as there are in the US (but there are Islamic attacks: there was one on a Jewish school in 2012 and a school teacher was decapitated last year — not on the school premises — for having shown the Mohammad cartoons in class about free speech) but what you show here is nothing compared to what’s here. First I thought they must be high-security prisons. Masonry walls with barbed wire on top, security cameras, narrow heavy iron doors, thick vertical iron bars planted in the street making parking or approaching in vehicles impossible, a line painted on the ground showing the distance where parents must wait for their children. All these fortifications predate the decapitation, but were perhaps errected after the Jewish school shooting.

  4. The Florida state sales tax is 6%. In 2014, the voters of Brevard County Florida overwhelmingly voted to establish a 0.5% sales surtax to be added to the state 6% sales tax. The surtax is to be used for security and technology upgrades and critical repairs for Brevard County public schools. In 2020, Brevard County voters overwhelming voted to renew the 0.5% sales surtax for another six years through 2026. The surtax generated $265MM through it’s first 6-year period, with an equal amount projected for the second 6-year period.

  5. When I was a kid growing up in the mid-to-late ’70s in the North Shore suburbs of Boston, on any Saturday afternoon, a bunch of neighborhood kids and I would walk to one of any number of public schools to play basketball or football on the open, un-fenced court or field. Access to the facilities kept us busy and off the street.

  6. Finally, last but not least:

    I can understand a chain link fence like the one you show near the baseball diamond, if that field is close to a street or a parking lot, and especially if there are bleachers for people watching the games, etc. My high school in Jersey had fences about 3″ high around the football field/running track and baseball diamond because it was right next to a big parking lot and across the street from people’s homes (on the other side) and a lot of people played recreational sports with various kinds of balls in those spaces, especially after school and on the weekends. The school didn’t want things like soccer balls and footballs, frisbees, etc. rolling out into the parking lot, being chased by students, etc.

    However the rest of the school was unfenced, including the main entrance and all the secondary entrances/exits. The grounds extended away from the school and met the sidewalks, and then the suburban streets around it. It was a nice neighborhood. The main parking lot in front of the school was also not fenced in. It would have cost a lot of money and been very, very ugly for the neighborhood if the town had attempted to fence the rest of the school grounds in. I just looked on Google Street View and unless something has changed recently, those areas are still unfenced. Just the aforementioned sports fields.

    It also meant that the fences would be choke points *entering* and *exiting* the school at both ends of the day, including in bad weather like northeastern winters (OK Florida doesn’t have those…) Also, fencing of that kind would have impeded rescue and/or fire crews from getting close to the school in the event of an emergency: now you can’t easily drive the fire truck or ambulance up the curb and across the lawn to get close to the building! Let’s say someone is hurt 50 feet inside the fence. The ambulance pulls up, they can’t drive onto the grass, the paramedics have to go around the fencing or hop the fence to get in there.

    It sounds like this whole thing was very badly thought-through, except for the money part.

  7. I suspect that the fences will be kept for reasons of control.

    My local school complains that sometimes at the end of the school day, a student will walk across the playground and get picked on the street corner, thereby bypassing the big lines of cars at the official pick-up location. With more fencing, they could prevent the kids escaping!

  8. The grass is always greener in the other states. In Calif*, the fences went up after 9/11/01 but they’re kept painted. No-one with a job in US actually went to school in US anyway.

  9. It does not really looks like a correctional facility, the author obviously have not seen inner city schools in NYC outer boroughs, they look worse then correctional facilities.
    Can you still drive, park at school parking lot and use field or tennis courts on the weekends?

  10. “Liberals” (like the particularly nasty species infesting school boards and administation) are totally in love with concentration camps and ugly fences evoking images of penitentiary institutions.

    This not suprising considering that leftism has roots in ascetic monastic cults and their masochistic rituals.

  11. Philip, tell us how EU will protect your 2nd Amendment rights and protect you from hereditary or upstart criminals. Europe favorite crime of sowing heads off is rather hard to execute quickly and requires passer-byes staring hard away to miss it and not to intervene. It took several Americans to stop one of shootings with fully automatic rifle on a French train. At least one of Americans who intervened is running for Congress. At least he is trying. It seems totally hopeless in EU.

    • The 2015 train incident?
      Wasn’t the first guy to tackle the gunman was a Frenchman? Apparently, he remained annon so as to avoid the reprisals from other ‘nutjobs’ living there.

    • disevad, how illiberal of you to assign unknown French hero suffix “man”. I am sure that the hero went anon to cover zer true LGBTQ+ identity from EU bigots.

    • Anonymous. says that the passengers who attacked Ayoub El Khazzani (“I’m a real jihadist, but we do not kill women and children. I am not a slaughterer. I am a noble fighter. I am a soldier.”) included a 62-year-old British person, Chris Norman (“I’m not going to be the guy who dies sitting down.” “If you’re going to die, try to do something about it.”).

      Based on recent Hollywood movies, I think it is fair to say that all of the people who fought back against this jihad identified as women, just as the Thai cave rescuers did. But, as with the Thai cave rescuers, prejudice against the 2SLGBTQQIA+ has kept some of these women deeply closeted so that they are forced to present as “men” in order to pass.

    • philg, it is good to see so many women take active civic position at the same time. But is it statistically possible? As spectrum bands in spectrum distributed uniformly is it possible that only one band – women – which is so rare that even did not make into acronym 2SLGBTQQIA+ – did all the heavy lifting?

  12. There is a law of nature that any open space will eventually be fenced in. My old high school had a big open football / soccer / track area that was turned into two baseball fields surrounded by fences. The irony is that the fields have been turned into sole-use baseball fields at the same time as participation in baseball is cratering.

    • Racist major league baseball team owners, managers and coaches, and the lack of baseball fields in the inner city is why proportionally fewer blacks play baseball and make it to the major leagues. Something like only 8% of major leaguers are (American) blacks. This injustice must be remedied.

  13. Seems a problematic way to address school shootings…

    Fences around schools are also very common in Silicon Valley though not universal and notably absent from the most recently renovated high school.

    It is not just schools that are plagued by fencing. They are to be found around virtually all private commercial lots and residential complexes which provides another good reason to leave the US.

    You were contemplating a move to Europe. What happened to that?

  14. Got to this post late, but I think the premise is flawed.

    It should be “Why do they make correctional facilities look just like schools?”

    • They just look like schools outside. They have well reinforced capital walls, doors and windows and inside they are usually only cells. But facade looks nice and there are sport facilities, for warden pets I guess because population inside is much larger then few of those who are allowed on the green or court.

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