Sane talk needed on school safety

It happened again.

There is grieving in Florida because someone opened fire inside of a school.

In this case 17 lives were taken.

But numbers should not matter. One is too many. The steps for preventing it can never be enough. And public confidence is further shaken because of credible reports that a school resource officer was derelict in his duty.

Locally, we are fortunate to report that the only news regarding school safety is that there were words spoken by students, in some cases perhaps seriously meant, in some cases perhaps not, but all being met with the force of law as they should be. The biggest complaint local parents have for now, is that they did not feel notification from Lafourche officials of arrests in regard to threats was timely enough. That discussion is one that should continue, with an understanding on all sides of expectations.

While school officials have noted that the threat was neutralized with an arrest, followed by a second arrest, parents are not out of line by suggesting that the schools don’t have a crystal ball and that it should be up to parents when tensions are high to make their own decisions on whether they are comfortable enough for students to attend classes.

That brings us back to the important issue of what we can do to make schools safer and to minimize the potential for tragedy.

Suggestions of arming teachers have been made. Squads of armed veterans have also been discussed by some.

Elimination of schools as “gun free zones” altogether is another argument that has emerged.

These suggestions in part are reflective of the larger debate that is emerging over guns and how they should be controlled in a safe but security-conscious society. We see why some might think them applicable. In our opinion they serve agenda that are separate and apart from child safety. But we are glad people are thinking.

Katie Portier, a parent of a child who will soon be attending school, was instrumental in beginning a discussion group on Facebook and in real time.

Her vision of a safe space for discussion of school safety by anyone who believes in it is refreshing and needed.

We agree with a contention she voiced that all voices should be heard, and that all ideas are valuable.

Such discussions, we believe, will permit the outside-the-box thinking that a crucial societal decision requires.

That having been said, here is one we would like to throw on the table.

Courthouses and other government buildings have long required controlled access. After some adjustment people adjusted to the inconvenience and the potential for delay. There is no way of knowing how many lives have been saved because of these precautions. And we believe the time has now come for serious discussion of how we can do better in our schools.

Rather than get sucked into debates on guns administrators should indeed consider controlled access to schools, even elementary schools, through the use of identification cards, metal detectors and single-point entry. Every visitor should be screened.

The lives of children are at least as important as those of judges, government officials, and lawyers.

The details can be sorted out once a general plan is made.

The question then arises as to how such measures should be paid for.

This will vary from parish to parish. There have already been moves toward enhanced security locally. We are eager to see how much more the dialogue takes shape.

There is a possibility that taxpayers might have to shoulder more of a burden. We can’t evaluate the question of how much or how this might occur, because it is far too early to do so.

But we must all be aware that the potential exists and that it should be discussed because if we really think that mass school shootings are a threat then we must be prepared to foot the bill for neutralizing it, however that may come to pass.

School safety is the business of everyone. Responsible discussion can lead to it. Those who have already begun to head us down that road should be commended for their efforts, and those who have not yet begun to take part in it should be encouraged to do so. A determined community can accomplish a lot, once we pick a page and choose to be on it.