Our children are not as safe during the school as we’d like to think they are.
The safety and education of our children should be the top priority of school officials. I feel that because our schools haven’t yet had any high-profile violent incidents, they may be taking a relaxed approach to safety. The attitude that violent incidents will “never happen in our school” may be a pipe dream of those hoping it won’t. With the knowledge of what has occurred elsewhere, we know that anything can happen.
In addition to violence, school officials are faced with the problem of bullying. Now, with electronic media and social networking, bullies are able to command a larger audience. Our children used to feel safe in our homes, but this is no longer the case.
Bullying can stem from a child seeking to gain popularity through victimizing others, or it can be the result of a dysfunctional family life. Am I an expert on bullying? No, but I’ve been a bully, been a victim of bullying and have witnessed it all my life. Bullying will always be around — but we need to find a way to deal with it.
Being a former school bus driver, I’ve unfortunately witnessed how school disciplinary procedures have failed with addressing bullying, as well as other problems.
All schools need to have zero tolerance for bullying, threats and assaults, and they must take action to prevent them. Administrators need to follow through on the anti-bullying policies. This was, and may still be, a problem in the school that I worked for. It appeared that there was a different set of rules for different students. Here’s an example: I had written up a student, with previous disciplinary problems, for using profanity on the bus. This student was suspended from bus privileges for a week. Another child, with a similar disciplinary record, was written up for verbally threatening another child with a gun. It took the administration 108 days to suspend that child from my bus. Sadly, it took a phone call to a school board member to make that happen. Some people would consider that as an “idle threat” from a fifth grader, but I did not.
In the past 26 years, at least 75 students have been shot and killed in the U.S., and another 127 have been wounded, this includes the most recent tragedy at the Newtown School. The shootings also took the lives of 19 staff and injured another 13.
Did the shooters of these kids ever make idle threats before they took human lives? Were there any prior red flags that could have prompted others to prevent the shootings? The death of one child, let alone 75, is unacceptable. The highest number of those killing and injuring others, incidentally, were boys 14 and 15.
Heightened security and awareness about potential violence are ways we can prevent these tragic incidents. Do I think that we need metal detectors in all our schools? I think we need something. In any case, most school districts do what they can to keep our children safe, but there are flaws in some schools’ security. Perhaps all those entering a school building should state their business and identify themselves before the entrance door is unlocked — a procedure now in place at Warrensburg High School. Unfortunately, familiar people could become violent.
Another concern: Are our school staffers, who are the first line of defense, well-trained in what to look for, or what to do in the event of a breach into the school? I think that the security and safety of our children should hold no boundaries.
Another preventative measure is to counsel troubled students. Paying particular attention to students who show signs of depression, anger or being a “loner” is a good place to start. The school psychologists, teachers, and staff members should be alert to any change in behavior of a student.
The students that have been arrested, or have spent a considerable amount of time in family court, should be monitored — not singled out, but evaluated.
There could be issues at home that could prompt a child to take out his frustrations at school. Children whose parents are experiencing discord or who are separating, tend to become withdrawn and rebellious — because many times the parents’ bitterness prompts them to divert their attention from their children. This observation comes from my first-hand knowledge: I was from a broken home.
Perhaps school staffers could re-commit themselves to being on full alert to monitor the behavior of our children. In one situation, that I recently experienced, a school principal, having been notified of a court order, failed to inform teachers and security staff forbidding a child to leave the school with a parent.
Safety in our schools should be addressed in a professional, uniform manner. Most teachers take their jobs seriously, and perform their duties to the best of their ability. But there are administrators, teachers and staff members who have lost touch with their priorities. Should we assume that these staff members can still be trusted with the lives of our children?
Our local public school is staffed with many very qualified professionals. However, based on past practice of some administrators, I feel that more can be done to ensure the safety of our kids. I do, and always will, have concerns about my kids during the course of a school day. I just would like more assurance that our children are getting the best educations possible, and that they are safe while getting it.
Mike Turano, Pottersville