School safety is top priority

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Like most of you, I shed tears off and on all weekend. Although I tried not to be consumed with 24-hour-a-day reporting on the monstrous tragedy in Connecticut, I watched some of the news coverage regarding the school shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary. I also read dozens and dozens of Facebook posts about this horrific event. I can't imagine what the parents of those beautiful children are going through or how the emergency responders who arrived at the school are dealing with the images that they will forever carry with them. Just a few months ago, I wrote an editorial about the shooting at the movie theater in Colorado. In that editorial, I said that it was time for a new discussion and time to come up with new solutions. I believe that discussion is more urgent than ever.

This weekend, I read a post by a police chief at a department in Brimfield, Ohio. In his post, the chief challenged legislatures to give school districts the funding needed to make schools safe zones. He also suggested a policy that provides a meeting room in the outside boundary of a campus for meetings with members of the public that must be conducted during the school day. Great plan, but what if the individual interested in killing others is a student, such as the case with Columbine High School where 15 were killed and 21 were injured in 1999. Well, we could place metal detectors at the entrances of schools to screen students for guns and other weapons as they enter the building. Passing through a metal detector, like the ones we now have in all judiciary buildings, would be less of an inconvenience to students than having to deal with watching their classmates be gunned down. What if a mass murderer breaks into a school building? Maybe we should also have armed security guards, who are trained to deal with criminals, stationed at all school buildings throughout each school day.

Even if you don't agree with these ideas, you must agree that these are great places to begin a discussion that could help improve the safety of schools for students and teachers. No, these ideas won't make movie theaters, shopping malls or workplaces safer, but maybe they will lead to ideas that could help when violence enters those locations as well. In my opinion, our focus right now must be on making schools safer. The last thing parents and educators need to worry about when children begin each school day is whether or not an armed gunman is going to enter what should be a safe place and take their lives. Teachers should not have to worry about hiding students in cabinets and closets and trying to redirect killers away from children. Whether those who commit these evil acts are suffering from mental illness or looking for fame, they should not have the opportunity to walk into a school and kill innocent children.

Today, schools are doing the very best they can with the money they are provided. In addition to feeding and educating children each day, they are challenged to meet benchmark goals established by the federal and state governments. Districts must meet those goals in order to achieve accreditation and continue to receive adequate funding. Many of our local school districts are constantly looking for ways to stretch their dollars while achieving what some might believe are nearly impossible requirements. Administrators already have a stressful job. In addition to lying awake at night worrying about school improvement reviews, should they also spend sleepless nights worrying about the safety of the children attending their school? Can't we at least take that off their plates?

Lindsay Reed