January 17, 2013

School safety is a growing concern | Clarksburg Exponent

While we’re sure President Obama’s gun control proposal will stir massive amounts of debate and distrust, we hope the focus remains on what has prompted the gun debate: School safety.

Instead of turning this into a political football about a contentious issue, we believe there are steps that can be taken now and in the near future that will help to improve conditions for students and teachers.

Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., is leading an effort to focus on school issues that could help to stop another tragedy like the one in Newtown, Conn.

On Wednesday, Manchin and the Harrison County school system were hosts to a roundtable discussion on ways to curtail school-related violence.
Revelations from the effort that brought together state and local education officials, teachers, students, law enforcement and community leaders were eye-opening.

First and foremost is the fact that delaying any attacker’s efforts by five minutes can mean the difference between life and death because it gives police adequate time to respond.

To accomplish that, many ideas were shared.

One of the simplest ways is for school personnel to utilize current procedures without fear of upsetting the public.

Secure entranceways are standard for schools. Visitors must be “buzzed” in and must register at the office. All outside doors are supposed to be secure, not propped open for easy access.

But there are other steps that need to be implemented.

There was significant support for putting armed prevention resource officers in schools. These would not be simply guards, but trained police officers who would interact with students and school personnel to create a safer environment.

By having at least one officer in a school or at least one on a multiple school campus, response time would be improved and problems could be stymied before they developed.

Making school buildings safer also was a point taken by many in attendance, as facilities’ multiple entry points and mostly glass entranceways make it easier for attackers to gain entrance.

Re-enforced windows, barriers and multiple-locked doors would slow any assault, giving police more time to respond.

There also was discussion about allowing teachers or principals to carry or have weapons in the building. This was met with mixed response as the concern was having guns available at all to anyone who was not a highly trained police officer who knew how to respond under pressure.

While a good amount of time was spent discussing handling attacks, an equal amount of time was spent on getting to the root of why a violent incident may occur.

One of the most pressing needs in our schools appears to be more counselors to provide services to students who are having difficulties.

Teachers and school administrators emphasized the need to provide special care for some students.

They mentioned instances where children as young as fourth or fifth grade had brought weapons to school. They talked about children from broken homes, who have little to no guidance in their lives; about children who struggled to fit in, who were crying out for help.

While improved security measures are needed, preventive steps to treat troubled children may be the most beneficial to long-term success.

Obviously, most of these measures would take a great deal of money. But by involving federal, state and local entities, we’re confident resources can be found to implement some of these proposals.

We applaud those who coordinated and took part in Wednesday’s roundtable. We’re sure Sen. Manchin left with the impression that it would take a combination of solutions to make schools safer. And we’re confident he will make sure positive steps are taken.

By:  Editorial