Nearly two weeks ago, flags across the country were lowered to half-staff to honor the victims of the school shooting tragedy in Parkland, Fla. In one of the world’s most deadly school shooting incidents, 17 people were killed and 14 more were taken to hospitals.
Since that time discussions have been spurred across the country about what can be done to make schools safer. Last weekend, I was even asked by a local media outlet to respond to a question about the possibility of arming teachers in the School District of the Menomonie Area (SDMA).
Generally, I think that in most cases arming teachers or other school employees is a bad idea, but I also recognize that this issue is complicated with no perfect solution readily available.
It is somewhat difficult to answer the question about arming teachers when it is unknown as to exactly what type of legislation could be proposed and which state laws would need to be changed to allow for teachers or other school employees to be armed. While some state and federal officials have recently commented on this topic, few details have been shared related to the specifics of any proposed legislation.
Unfortunately, society’s inability to effectively manage the root causes of public violence has required policymakers to consider a variety of solutions, some of which probably would have been unthinkable to most people less than a decade ago. Since any large-scale fixes to the root causes of these problems would likely take some time to positively impact communities across the country, ideas for what else can be done now to immediately improve the safety and security of schools should be considered.
Like many school districts across the country, the SDMA has already retrofitted buildings and changed policies to better control access to our schools. We have improved response protocols, provided training for staff, and practiced with students how to best handle a hypothetical situation with an armed intruder.
We have also taken steps to better identify and respond to students with mental health needs or those demonstrating at-risk behaviors, and we have tried to partner with the city to expand the presence of police liaison officers in our schools. Despite all of these types of efforts, there still is a heightened sense of concern for the students and staff members working in schools across our nation.
While I would never suggest that it be required for any SDMA teachers to be armed, I am concerned about all of our school employees and their right to feel safe while educating our children. My preference would be that funding is provided for other safety features, more police liaison officers, or armed security guards in schools. But if funding isn’t provided, leaders might be forced to be more creative in considering other solutions for improving safety measures.
While some might argue for the allowance of select school employees to voluntarily carry weapons after completing some sort of rigorous training program, it needs to be understood that this would not be an easy fix. This type of solution would come with many complicated questions, and probably lead to many additional expenses such as additional liability coverage, equipment, and training that could, perhaps, be used to fund a less controversial solution.
One way or another, I think that it is necessary to take additional measures to make schools across the country safer and more secure. Now, more than ever, it is important that students, parents, teachers, law enforcement officials, and other members of the school community work together to be proactive in monitoring behaviors, speaking up, and responding appropriately if something does not seem right.
Should school families or community stakeholders have any questions or concerns related to the safety and security of our schools, I invite you to contact the principal at your child’s school, or visit me at the Administrative Service Center on Pine Avenue. More information about our schools can be found on the school diston on Twitter (www.twitter.com/sdmaonline) and Facebook (www.faceborict website (www.sdmaonline.com), and I regularly post school-related informatiok.comom/menonie.schools).
See Wednesday’s Dunn County News to find out how other area district administrators feel about the subject of teachers and guns in schools.