By Caleph B. Wilson
Before the end of the school year a middle school in Grenada, MS (my hometown) identified a student that brought a loaded handgun to school. In this case clear communication between students, staff, teachers and administrators lead to disarming the student without incident. (Because a minor was involved some of the details of the situation is incomplete. Hopefully, this very serious incident will be rapidly resolved and include measures that will eventually allow the student re-enter the educational system.) This was a clear demonstration of how communities can entrust school districts to keep their children safe. Unfortunately, the terrible tragedy at Sandy Hood Elementary School in Newton, CT is the backdrop for this situation.
With this in mind, the Grenada School District (GSD) has worked with local authorities and parents to review their security plans and contingencies. This process has been played out by school districts all over the country. It is a clear demonstration that communities and policy makers are working together to keep children safe and focused on learning. Commonsense and professionalism is where we all should place our trust.
On top of this, some have moved to pushing for armed security, metal detectors and other security measures. However, arming teachers moves unreasonably to the extreme. Teachers are trained education professionals and should be focused on teaching not staying on the ready to engage armed threats. Further, with all that we demand for educators adding more to their plates will likely have negative impact on the education of children.
Additionally, the cost in insurance and added security would likely mean reallocation of funds from pure educational activities. Here is a question: Does it make sense to hurt education quality by taking away funds that are already stretched thin? Educating our children is the point. That is why all stake holders have to be engaged in the conversation. Parents, families, students, educators, school administrators, law enforcement and government (local, state and federal) have to be shape the conversation for efficient, effect and balanced school security measures.
So, adding armed uniformed off duty police officers for security is a reasonable response. Yet this situation can go overboard. Remember schools are not correctional facilities and over doing armed security at schools may change the atmosphere.
We live in an open and free society. Preserving our way of life truly depends on maintaining our identity in the face of horrific tragedy. Reason and data driven professional advice should always guide our response(s).
UPDATE (12 December 2012): A source within the Grenada School District confirmed that GSD did not detect the firearm until after the suspected student brandished the handgun at another student while on a school bus.