Our View: How can kids learn if they’re worried about being shot?
February 23, 2018
In the wake of the most recent school shooting, which left 17 dead in Florida, a national debate is underway on how to make our schools and our students safer from such a threat.
President Trump said this week his administration will make school safety a top priority, and in recent days he, and other leaders, discussed several measures that could help stop such slaughters, including:
Conducting better background checks for firearm purchases, with mental health and criminal history included for a more comprehensive review.
Banning so-called "bump stocks," which convert semiautomatic guns into automatic weapons.
Raising the minimum age from 18 to 21 for buyers of certain firearms, such as assault-style rifles. Or banning the sale of such weapons to the public altogether.
Increasing security on campuses, making our schools more "hardened targets."
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Considering how common such carnage has become on our TV screens, we should consider all the above and any other ideas that come forward that could help protect our children, and those who educate them. After careful consideration, we believe the concept of arming teachers to be off the mark.
Through the years, schools have taken on many additional roles to make up for society's shortcomings. They're not only tasked with teaching our kids but also take on tending to their nutritional, physical and psychological needs. Although it was a love for learning — the reading, writing and arithmetic — that led many to the classroom, today they're often serving as pseudo-parents in a society much different today than when they were in school.
Parents are in a real struggle to make ends meet, particularly single-parent families. Even if there are two parents in the home, both are likely working — for many that even includes second jobs — and often can't be as involved as they want or need to be. It's often our teachers who help to fill the gaps, but asking them to carry a weapon and confront a shooter is too much.
Hiring trained armed security guards, to both protect the school population in the event of such an incident and to deter would-be shooters from stepping on campus, seems a more logical approach. But schools aren't exactly flush with funding. And it's a sad day when administrators have to choose between funding new textbooks or an additional school resource officer.
Making schools more "hardened targets" presents quite a challenge in our community, and others across the state, as they've traditionally been open campuses with "outdoor hallways" between classrooms and accessible from various points.
Of course, we'd rather not have the razor-wire topped fences, metal detectors, K-9 units and armed security that would lead our schools to feel more like prisons. And, as President Trump mentioned, we'd rather not have to engage students in "active-shooter drills" or put our schools on "lockdown" upon the threat of danger.
But this is the reality we face.
It's going to take concerted collaboration across local, state and federal levels of government to make our schools more safe.
Our leaders have to identify areas for improvement and our government officials need to compromise in their hard stances of the past and prioritize the funding to make them happen.
Unless we take action, we should expect only more of the same sickening scenes to replay over and over on our TV screens — or perhaps next time on one of our own campuses.
How can we expect our children, and those who teach them, to be focused on learning, when they can't even be sure they're safe at school?
The weekly Our View column represents the consensus opinion of The Union Editorial Board, a group of editors and writers from The Union, as well as informed community members. Contact the board at EditBoard@TheUnion.com.