The Times West Virginian

December 19, 2012

No children should ever have to attend school in fear


Times West Virginian

— It’s likely that several parents hugged their children a bit more tightly Monday morning before sending them off to school or watched them a few seconds longer as they skipped off to the bus stop.

It was a natural reaction considering the horrific massacre that had transpired in Connecticut just three days earlier.

And it was a reaction being felt across the country as parents struggled to calm fears and school administrators pledged to add police patrols, review security plans and make guidance counselors available as students returned to school for the first time in the aftermath of one of the worst mass shootings in U.S. history.

We all know the details by now.

We know 26 people were killed at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., most of them children between the ages of 6 and 7.

We know the school’s principal and counselor were killed as they tried to protect the young students.

And we know the children were in their classrooms, places that had been, up until that very moment, some of the safest places on Earth for them to be.

Schools across the country have taken extra steps this week to ensure students’ safety and calm parents’ nerves. As The Associated Press has reported, school districts have asked police departments to increase patrols and have sent messages to parents outlining safety plans that they assured them are regularly reviewed and rehearsed.

Although some officials refused to discuss plans publicly in detail, it was clear that vigilance will be high this week at schools everywhere.

That can certainly be said for Marion County, where officials are not only being extra vigilant, but are thinking of ways to further protect students and staff.

During a meeting of the Marion County Board of Education on Monday, Superintendent of Schools Gary Price said most of the schools in the county are using the appropriate security measures, but he encouraged those facilities to look at their procedures often and get feedback from those involved in the school and others. He suggested that parents meet to talk about these security issues and share ideas.

Price also said that while all suggestions for improving school security might not be able to be implemented, the school system needs to seriously consider each idea that is brought up.

“Everyone wants their children in a safe, secure learning environment,” he wrote in an email to the schools Monday related to security inquiries. “We owe them the opportunity to suggest ways that can help that happen. We are still public institutions and cannot become armed camps, but we cannot let that deter us from doing everything we can to secure the safety of our children and employees.”

We cannot begin to imagine the horror and grief that families in Newtown have faced since the scope of Friday’s shooting became clear.

But we can be comforted by local officials’ efforts to protect Marion County’s students, and we hope students of every age know their local schools are safe and secure.

After all, no child should have to go to school in fear.