Goshen News, Goshen, IN

Opinion

February 10, 2013

School safety is a top priority

Eleven days before Christmas, 20 children and six staff members were gunned down in Connecticut’s Sandy Hook Elementary School. Our nation grieved the loss of life, and we lacked the words to adequately convey our sense of sorrow and horror.

Questions, however, weren’t in short supply. “How?” and “Why?” were at the top of the list. With the actual shooter in the Sandy Hook rampage dead, the questioners turned up more theoretical culprits — too little access to mental health care, too much access to firearms, a murder-happy entertainment culture.

The carnage in Connecticut made an impact far beyond that state’s borders. And everywhere else, the same question was asked: Could it happen here? The answer to that is easy.

Unfortunately, it’s yes.

This is something the Goshen community knows all too well. While the death toll was much lower and children weren’t targeted, the Nu-Wood shootings of a decade ago are evidence that mass shootings don’t always happen “somewhere else.”

Local law enforcement officials know this. So do our school officials. They want the best for our community, and they’re thinking about the worst.

On Tuesday, local school superintendents met with members of the Elkhart County Sheriff’s Department to discuss school safety issues.

“What I can say is that all the agencies in the area are working together to keep our students safe,” Middlebury Community Schools Superintendent Jane Allen said after the meeting. Not that we had any doubt, but it’s good to be reassured.

Security, of late, is a prime concern for school administrators. The Middlebury administration is looking into metal detectors, extra school resource officers and other procedures, Allen told The News. This after a Northridge student allegedly brought a gun into school last month. At Wa-Nee Community schools, a building project at NorthWood High School was put on a fast track to address security issues there. Wawasee officials recently spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on school security measures, Superintendent Tom Edington said.

Bolstered security comes with a hefty price tag. And though we hate to admit it, there’s no such thing as absolute safety. The worst can always happen.

Consider, too, that stakeholders — students, teachers, parents and taxpayers — may have differing views on what a secure school environment should be. How much are they willing to sacrifice convenience for security? How much are they willing to pay for it?

One approach may be community forums. School officials could outline what security measures are in place or planned. Members of the community they serve could weigh in with their concerns, as well as ideas for safer schools.

Our world is imperfect and often dangerous. We thank our local police and school officials for their efforts in making that world better, and safer, for our children.

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