Student safety most important

Published 4:22 pm Friday, March 30, 2018

Our schools and those with a stake in their safety and success need calm and reasoned discussion, new solutions and a modernized plan to address school safety. The world is changing and so must we.

A 13-year-old student was arrested Wednesday and charged with bringing an unloaded weapon into Long Cane Middle School. Parents of students at Long Cane — and across the county — were understandably concerned by the news.

According to the Troup County Sheriff’s Office, there was no ammunition in the gun or in the student’s backpack, and no threats were made against the school by the student.

Parents were notified of the incident by a letter from the school, which alerted them to what happened. However, receiving the information does not change what took place, or make the event any easier to understand.

When an event like this happens, discussions on gun control inevitably follow. We will sidestep that discussion and instead will focus on how school system administrators and other leaders can use this incident as an opportunity to evaluate security measures in place for all schools.

Many have started discussions on social media about ways to improve security as a result of recent events. Implementing metal detectors at all entryways is an option, but this poses difficult logistical hurdles to overcome and metal detectors have not always proven to act as a deterrent. A 14-year-old Atlanta boy was shot inside a middle school with metal detectors in 2013, and the 2005 Red Lake shootings in Minnesota took place in a high school with metal detectors.

Another alternative is to mandate students use clear, see-through backpacks. While this would make carrying prohibited items more difficult, they would likely not stop all prohibited items from making their way onto school grounds.

The truth is if there was a simple way to stop guns, knives and other weapons from entering schools it would have been done, here and elsewhere.

The school system does have effective security measures already in place. Security doors are already in use at many schools, and Assistant Superintendent John Radcliffe said earlier this year that all schools are expected to have them by summer 2018.

Unfortunately, school safety is becoming a genuine concern across the country. Earlier this week a teacher’s aide in New York was found with a loaded gun on school grounds and a loaded gun was found in a backpack at a Jackson, Mississippi elementary school.

The best thing that can come out of this is more discussion between school, law enforcement and community leaders about ways security can be improved to avoid situations like this in the future, but discussion needs to come quickly, additional measures agreed upon and implemented, so something like the incident this week, or worse, doesn’t happen again.

There are no perfect answers in a situation with so many variables, but nothing is more important than the safety of our students.