School safety

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By Glen and Linda Smith

“When sorrows come, they come not single spies, but in battalions.” So observes Claudius in the play Hamlet.
    Certainly personal trials often come in multiples, while collective sorrows and even tragedies daily abound. We need not be news junkies to apprehend their frequency and sadness. Plane crashes, floods, tornadoes, typhoons—we are bombarded by the stark reality of the suffering. Yet perhaps none of these tragedies slam us with more emotional impact than school shootings.
    Sandy Point and a growing number of other nightmare scenarios come to mind. And as desensitized as we may have become due to the frequency and publicity of ongoing calamities, we are all moved by the news of kids dead or wounded, and the horrified parents racing to the scene. If we are not, we are either heavily medicated or we have checked out emotionally.
    Now we are faced with the pressing task of guarding against a shooting in our local schools. Granted, the chance of such a tragedy happening in one of our Bedford schools is small, but the stakes are too high to ignore the possibility.
    Two very different solutions have been proposed: allowing educators with conceal carry permits to bring their weapons into schools (assuming the general assembly passes legislation permitting this approach), or placing resource officers in all schools. Definitely the resource officer approach is the better choice.
    For one thing, the underlying argument for arming educators seems to be a shortsighted economic one. While proponents of this argument usually append the issue of money to another reason (e.g., “it is a simple, cost effective solution”), the money consideration appears to be primary. And while money has to be a consideration in issues involving taxpayer funds, the safety of children trumps the dollar in this instance. Though well intentioned, those advocating for educator guards are overlooking potential problems with that “solution.”
    Significantly, it is not reasonable to expect educators to be trained to the same degree as law enforcement officers from a police academy. Yet as Sheriff Mike Brown has rightly declared, such comparable training should be a requirement for an administrator or teacher who carries a gun on school property. This is a proper requirement since there is a need not only for marksmanship skills but also for the ability to make life-and-death decisions in a split second.
    Acquisition of such abilities would entail extensive, specialized training the like of which would normally not be a reasonable expectation for administrators or teachers. Educators are trained and motivated to teach; law enforcement personnel are trained to enforce laws and protect citizens from lawbreakers.
    Moreover, as Sheriff Brown went on to point out, with both staff and the perpetrator(s) brandishing weapons during a school attack, arriving law officers might be unable to distinguish the defender from the offender. A scary possibility, to say the least, but one preventable by the hiring of fully uniformed resource officers.
    For the above reasons, we urge citizens to speak up for a resource officer in every school, including every primary and elementary school. We must contact school board members and supervisors to gain their support. We may also personally present our case at the respective board meetings, which is certainly an effective way to get the message across.
    Indeed, too much is riding on the outcome to remain silent.