Student safety should be main concern

Posted 3/4/18

Shooting incidents at schools are happening way too often.

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Student safety should be main concern

Posted

Shooting incidents at schools are happening way too often.

While we haven’t had such an incident in Walker County yet, that doesn’t mean that it couldn’t happen here just as easily as the shootings that we’ve seen reported in recent years.

Any time an incident, such as what happened recently in Florida, takes place, the tragedy is immediately turned into a political argument. While our country needs to have a serious discussion about guns where both sides can find some common ground, that could take a while. Judging by the venom the opposing sides like to spew at each other, we may never find common ground on that particular issue.

With that debate likely raging on for years to come, our thoughts and resources need to be focused on finding logical ways to keep students safe while they are at school.

Law enforcement and school administrators in Jasper and Walker County have done a good job in forming a sensible approach to improving safety in our local schools. An increased police presence is obviously going to be a deterrent to would-be shooters. Police are trained to handle emergency situations, and they do a tremendous job at our schools. I have two children in Jasper schools, and it is extremely rare for me to visit one of the schools and not see an officer.

In the aftermath of the recent shooting in Florida, there has been a push by some to arm teachers. Most legislative and education officials and teachers who I’ve spoken with have not been shy in saying they think that would be a horrible idea. I personally think it is a bad idea. Inviting more weapons into a closed space, such as a school, just isn’t the best answer for safety concerns. I love my children’s teachers and think they are amazing people, but I don’t want any of them armed in the classroom.

I was intrigued by an idea that I scrolled across on social media the other day. A school district in Oklahoma had installed a bulletproof safe room in each of its classrooms. A video showed that 32 children and two teachers could enter the space in about 30 seconds. The room was bulletproof but could also withstand an EF5 tornado, a 9.5 earthquake, a C5 hurricane and explosives.

In our area, a tornado is more likely to injure a student than an active shooter situation, so that additional protection from weather events caught my attention as well.

The shelters included interior lighting, padded benches and carpet. They are being used on a daily basis as a quiet reading or tutoring area, which gives them a function for teachers other than just being a safe space that would rarely be used due to an emergency situation. They can be assembled in just about any classroom space.

The safe rooms are pricey. It took a few minutes of searching, but it seems the going rate is around $30,000 per shelter. Depending on school size, it could take anywhere from $500,000 to $1 million to outfit a school with the shelters. I think that is a price we should be willing to pay.

While schools are strapped for cash, there are a variety of ways to pay for capital projects. If the funding isn’t in the current operating budgets, there are bond issues that can be taken and private donations could help as well. I know each of our legislators in Montgomery pretty well, and I am sure they would also do what they could to help with funding for this type of project.

For more information on the shelters that I mentioned, visit www.shelterinplace.com. I’m sure there are other similar ones out there, but these have been featured in news reports in the last several days.

It’s sad that we have to even think about school safety. We can all do a better job of being kind and considerate of others. We can also talk to our children about living by the Golden Rule, but the fact remains that bad things can happen. I’m thankful for our local law enforcement and for school officials who will think outside the box without knee-jerk reactions to issues.

James Phillips is editor and publisher of the Daily Mountain Eagle. He may be reached at 205-221-2840 or james.phillips@mountaineagle.com.