The Commercial-News, Danville, IL

February 24, 2013

How can schools be safer?


DANVILLE — Everyone wants schools to be safe havens for our children, places they can learn and laugh together with no worries.

Then an event such as the mass shootings at Connecticut’s Sandy Hook Elementary School occurs, leaving 20 students and six adult staff members dead.

The reality of the horror in Sandy Hook rips away the idea that schools — our schools — can completely protect our children.

Danville District 118 officials prepare as much as they are able. They train staff members, and many buildings will see improvements in security measures in the months ahead.

Police officers already work daily at Danville High School and in South View and North Ridge middle schools. But the city’s elementary schools — just as many of the schools at all levels in the surrounding area — have no full-time officers on duty.

Will an armed officer in every school prevent a repeat of Sandy Hook? Nothing is absolute, but such a practice might deter the next deranged person who seeks fame by killing as many helpless people as possible.

A move to post an officer in every school would be expensive. That presents a choice to the public:  Will they be willing to pay more taxes in the effort to ensure better safety at schools?

Small, rural school districts face tough financial choices already. In many cases, their buildings are especially vulnerable, located distances away from emergency personnel.

These are not easy questions. More work needs to be done on many issues — mental health care, building security and, yes, with controlling access to weapons.

Children deserve their schools to be safe places filled with fun, not armed camps on the alert for the next intruder. How we create that environment for them remains to be decided.