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Archive for Wednesday, October 4, 2006

School safety

Controlled access and other local school safety measures that parents might have viewed as inconvenient may seem like less of a burden following recent fatal attacks in schools.

October 4, 2006

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With three deadly school shootings in a week, school officials can't afford to take anything for granted when it comes to the safety of their students.

It's good to know that Lawrence school officials already have ordered a review of procedures for dealing with school intruders along with a heightened state of vigilance by school employees. There is no way to guarantee a violent tragedy won't happen here, but school district officials have to make sure they have done everything humanly possible to eliminate that threat.

Monday's execution-style shooting of young girls at an Amish school in Pennsylvania is sickening and shocking. It's almost incomprehensible that any human being would be capable of such an aberrant plan. As the story unfolds, it appears the 32-year-old man who tied the girls together and shot them was acting on some fantasy fostered by mental instability and personal tragedy. It was an attack that was planned well in advance but unfortunately went undetected by anyone who could have intervened, sought help for the man and saved the girls.

How do schools - and society, in general - cope with this kind of threat? It's a tall order, but Lawrence Supt. Randy Weseman had the right idea when he said, "I don't think we should live in a state of fear. I think we should live in a state of readiness."

Not long ago, the principal at New York School was criticized by parents for not allowing students to enter the school through the front door. The principal's response that the door was locked because staffing wasn't available to monitor that door didn't seem very satisfactory at the time, but parents might have a better understanding of that security measure now. The door now is unlocked, but only after staff changes that allowed it to be monitored.

One justification for replacing South Junior High School was the inability to monitor properly activity in the school's winding halls. Security cameras, security officers and Lawrence police officers who serve as school resource officers are another hedge against illegal activity and violence in the schools. But in the wake of recent incidents, teachers and administrators have reason to be extra cautious.

Authorities theorize that the shooter in Pennsylvania chose the Amish school not because of any animosity toward the Amish but because there was little security at the rural school. We don't want our children to be afraid or feel like their schools have become armed camps, but the community should be patient with and supportive of administration efforts to maximize the safety of the children attending Lawrence schools.

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