School safety actions that bring promise

Posted 3/11/18

Anyone with a vested interest in the safety of our schools — students, teachers and administrative staff, as well as their loved ones who cringe at news reports of “another shooting” — surely …

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School safety actions that bring promise

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Anyone with a vested interest in the safety of our schools — students, teachers and administrative staff, as well as their loved ones who cringe at news reports of “another shooting” — surely gave approving nods to last Monday's happenings.


            On this day in Nashville, Gov. Bill Haslam announced the formation of the Governor’s School Safety Working Group, a collection of education, law enforcement and mental health professionals who will review school safety protocol in Tennessee to develop a strategy for enhancing security on such esteemed grounds.


            On this same day in Cleveland, a former Bradley County educator who now heads a respected state teachers association delivered a wake-up call to state and federal decision-makers: “… Quit playing political football” with school safety.


            The words belong to JC Bowman, a Bradley County native who once taught in the Bradley County Schools system. Today, he serves as executive director of the Professional Educators of Tennessee, a non-partisan advocate for education headquartered in Nashville.


            In a front-page story published in the Cleveland Daily Banner on the same day that Haslam announced the state’s school safety team, Bowman warned, “… the issue of improved school security will not be resolved in the current political environment, as long as real solutions are not considered [because of] a liberal or conservative bias.”


            The latter words are well worth repeating: “… Improved school security will not be resolved in the current political environment, as long as real solutions are not considered [because of] a liberal or conservative bias.”


            In other words, partisan politicians who refuse to see the other side simply because they represent “the other side,” will be the doom of safety in our schools.


            Tired, old arguments of “guns don’t kill people; people kill people,” should not be a part of debates related to school safety. The facts are these: People are here. Guns are here. People use guns to kill people.


            The question then should be, “How do we keep guns, and people with guns who wish to do harm, out of our schools?”


            We believe this is the argument posed by Bowman. We hope it is a question that will lead to answers from the governor’s school-safety task force.


            In announcing the initiative, Haslam explained, “All children in Tennessee deserve to learn in a safe and secure environment and I am asking this working group to move quickly in making practical recommendations that we can implement in the coming weeks and months to help increase the safety of our children.”


            The governor added, “The review will be wide-ranging but include specific items, such as entry to and exit from schools, training and availability of school resource officers, and in-school mental health resources for students.”


            Haslam’s task force started its work last week. The governor wants the first set of recommendations prior to the close of the current legislative session.


            Chaired by Department of Safety and Homeland Security Commissioner David Purkey, the group’s task is a daunting one. Yet, much of the discussion should rely on common sense with solicited input at the community and individual school level. Certain members of the task force represent both.


            Haslam’s call to arms (pardon the play on words because this is no laughing matter) is reassuring because it seems to point to a commitment to finally get something done; at least, at the state, community and school levels.


            But we hope input, such as that offered in this community newspaper by Bowman, will be part of the discussion.


            Consider these relevant thoughts by Bowman, as published in the Cleveland newspaper:


            • “Real lives, those of children and adults, are at stake in our schools.”


            • “The time for talking is past; it is time to take action. Any viable option that can lead to a safer environment in our schools and communities should be on the table.”


            • “… The first step in school safety is securing the perimeter of a school.”


            • “There needs to be secure exterior doors to limit building access points., and each district should develop a uniform policy for entry into a school.”


            We especially like this thought from Bowman, “It is also time to put metal detectors in every school across America. The federal government could absorb the cost by simply eliminating any of the already wasteful programs they are funding.”


            We hope Haslam’s directive, and Bowman’s wakeup call, are evidence that somebody — a person, a community, a state and beyond — are finally ready to establish priorities when it comes to school safety.


            We pray those entering the debate will do so with eyes wide and ears open.


            It should not be about money.


            It should not be about ideologies.


            It should not be about “can’t do this” or “no, not that.”


            It should be about our kids. It should be about our teachers. It should be about every education professional and each school employee who steps through such revered doors each morning to make a difference.


            It’s not so much to ask. Given today’s societal devolution, we suggest it’s the least we can do.

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