But what about guns? ?

The Covington News - - FRONT PAGE - AM­BER PITTMAN apittman@cov­news.com

It’s been a week since the mas­sacre of 20 chil­dren and six adults in New­town, Conn. struck the na­tion to its core. Since then, at least four states have pro­posed arm­ing teach­ers, and it seems a pop­u­lar choice among New­ton County res­i­dents as well based on Face­book com­ments.

But how likely is that to hap­pen, and would it even work to pre­vent a tragedy like the one in New­town from hap­pen­ing in New­ton?

What the law says

Cur­rently the law says that school sys­tem em­ploy­ees can have a firearm in their ve­hi­cle “as long as it is in a locked com­part­ment or locked con­tainer in the ve­hi­cle.”

Dar­ren Berry, New­ton schools’ stu­dent ser­vices su­per­vi­sor and dis­ci­plinary

of­fi­cer, said “School em­ploy­ees are not al­lowed by law to carry those weapons into the school build­ing.”

Cur­rent leg­is­la­tion does not al­low weapons on any school grounds, in­clud­ing col­leges; how­ever, leg­is­la­tors in Ari­zona, North Carolina, Ten­nessee and Vir­ginia have all sug­gested new leg­is­la­tion in the last week to al­low guns to be car­ried by teach­ers in schools.

Although Ge­or­gia law­mak­ers have not yet for­mally pro­posed any­thing, Ge­or­gia is one of the gun-friendly states in the na­tion.

State Rep. Doug Holt, R-So­cial Cir­cle, said in an email Wed­nes­day “I am not in­ter­ested in jump­ing to any con­clu­sions on this in­ci­dent. The in­ci­dent is hor­ri­fy­ing and shock­ing, which I think calls for very de­lib­er­ate, open minded rea­son­ing to ad­dress the many con­cerns it has raised.” What ci­ti­zens say In a Face­book poll and in post­ings re­gard­ing the Con­necti­cut shoot­ing, many read­ers have said that the NCSS should look at op­tions to keep stu­dents safer at school. Arm­ing teach­ers and ad­min­is­tra­tors has been a pop­u­lar sug­ges­tion.

Some oth­ers sug­ges­tions have in­cluded in­stalling metal de­tec­tors in ev­ery school, keep­ing all school doors locked at all times and adding fenc­ing. Oth­ers have talked about hir­ing out­side se­cu­rity, adding more sher­iff’s deputies or even bring­ing in re­tired veter­ans as vol­un­teers to pa­trol the schools.

NCSS Su­per­in­ten­dent Gary Mathews spoke on two ra­dio pro­grams on Na­tional Pub­lic Ra­dio this week, along with a panel of school of­fi­cials and ex­perts, in­clud­ing Gre­gory Thomas, former di­rec­tor of se­cu­rity of the New York City Schools, and Michael Dorn, na­tional school safety ex­pert.

Mathews said schools have both low-tech and high-tech op­tions. Low-tech op­tions in­clude hav­ing a cri­sis man­age­ment plan and prac­tic­ing that plan reg­u­larly, some­thing Mathews said all schools need to do more of­ten, ac­cord­ing to na­tional data.

“Ef­fec­tive im­me­di­ately in NCSS, we will mon­i­tor and hold ev­ery­one ac­count­able for per­form­ing the once-per-month drill ex­pected of all pub­lic and pri­vate schools in the state,” Mathews said. “Ev­ery­one must do bet­ter in prac­tic­ing the ap­pro­pri­ate drills each month de­spite the many other ‘must do’s’” in schools.

Mathews said there is also a need for high-tech op­tions, such as the pi­lot SAFE pro­gram at New­ton High School, which can be read about in the ar­ti­cle that ac­com­pa­nies this one on the front page.

“From my per­spec­tive as a school su­per­in­ten­dent and fa­ther of five, I want schools to ex­hibit both ‘low tech’ and ‘high tech’ re­sponses to school safety. I doubt that it’s ‘ei­ther-or.’ I be­lieve it is both….for our chil­dren and staffs sake,” he said. What would it cost?

The cost of arm­ing teach­ers, in­stalling metal de­tec­tors and other mea­sures sug­gested by many on Face­book is un­known be­cause it has not been ex­plored by the NCSS pre­vi­ously.

How­ever, ac­cord­ing to the Na­tional In­sti­tute of Jus­tice, por­tal metal de­tec­tors vary in price, from $1,000 to $30,000 a piece.

“The mod­er­ately-priced models around $4,000 to $5,000 prob­a­bly of­fer the features and reli­a­bil­i­ties re­quired for a school metal de­tec­tion pro­gram. Models closer to $1,000 are not rec­om­mended due to lack of sen­si­tiv­ity of th­ese de­vices. Models in the higher price ranges gen­er­ally of­fer en­hanced ca­pa­bil­i­ties that would not be nec­es­sary or war­ranted in a school en­vi­ron­ment,” ac­cord­ing to the in­sti­tute’s web­site.

Adding ad­di­tional

pri­vate se­cu­rity guards to the schools would cost an added mean wage of $15.11 per hour or roughly $31,420, ac­cord­ing to the U.S. Bureau of La­bor Statis­tics web­site.

In­stalling an av­er­age chain link fence can cost be­tween $9,000 and $12,000 per acre

“We haven’t done the re­search re­gard­ing costs re­lated to fenc­ing around schools, metal de­tec­tors and pri­vate se­cu­rity firms,” said Mathews. “Those are not mea­sures about which we’ve had dis­cus­sion yet. In the Con­necti­cut mat­ter, nei­ther fenc­ing nor metal de­tec­tors would have pre­vented the tragedy. Armed with an as­sault ri­fle, the per­pe­tra­tor shot his way into the school just as I sus­pect he would have had there been fenc­ing or metal de­tec­tors. “

Mathews said he didn’t sup­port armed vol­un­teers ei­ther, nor do other safety ex­perts. Lo­cal of­fi­cials take

The ma­jor­ity of school of­fi­cials who agreed to be in­ter­viewed were not in fa­vor of arm­ing teach­ers

“I do not fa­vor arm­ing teach­ers and ad­min­is­tra­tors in our schools,” said Mathews. “Call it in­tu­ition, but my years of ex­pe­ri­ence tell me that such would not be in the in­ter­est of stu­dents or staff.

“I much pre­fer to have an armed school re­source of­fi­cer, trained in se­cu­rity mat­ters, take on the re­spon­si­bil­ity of pro­tect­ing ev­ery­one with deadly force if need be. Oth­ers on our ra­dio panel, in­clud­ing two well­known school se­cu­rity ex­perts, agreed with my po­si­tion. Thus, I will not be propos­ing this mea­sure to the Board of Ed­u­ca­tion.”

School board mem­ber Al­mond Turner, who is also the as­sis­tant chief of po­lice for the Cov­ing­ton Po­lice De­part­ment, was also not in fa­vor of armed school staff.

“I am op­posed to that be­cause you are putting a num­ber of weapons in a school and when you do that there is al­ways the pos­si­bil­ity of that weapon be­ing left some­where un­in­ten­tion­ally and a stu­dent may get it, or dur­ing an ar­gu­ment or con­fronta­tion they would go for their weapon,” said Turner Thurs­day.

“How­ever, I do think that we have poli­cies in place that we need to tighten up and make sure we fol­low,” he said, not­ing that he be­lieved class­rooms should be locked, as should the outer doors of the schools, and that there should be some­one mon­i­tor­ing the front of the school so that vis­i­tors are made to sign in and can be es­corted to a class­room and not “re­leased to roam free.”

Turner also sup­ported putting cam­eras in more class­rooms.

While Abi­gail Cog­gin was hes­i­tate to com­ment as a school board mem­ber, she did com­ment as the mother of two chil­dren who at­tend New­ton County schools.

“Af­ter the tragic events that un­folded last week, I have thought long and hard about how to keep my chil­dren safe, not only at school but also at home and out in the gen­eral pub­lic. I firmly be­lieve that life is a risk be­cause sadly evil does ex­ist in our world. We have to deal with evils ev­ery day and wher­ever we go. Who is to say an armed per­son won’t open fire while my chil­dren and I are gro­cery shop­ping? Risks and evil can hap­pen any­where and not nec­es­sar­ily just at school,” Cog­gin said.

Cog­gin said more armed of­fi­cers and armed teach­ers could im­prove safety, but she wasn’t con­vinced ei­ther way af­ter many hours of con­tem­pla­tion and re­search. She said she will rely on the opin­ions of lo­cal law en­force­ment of­fi­cials, who have been mak­ing in­creased ef­forts to pa­trol schools, learn their lay­outs and talk to staff.

She said the com­mu­nity needs to be more vig­i­lant, and par­ents need to make sure their chil­dren are trained to obey their teach­ers.

For a longer ver­sion of this story with more com­ments from lo­cal of­fi­cials, read Cov­News. com.

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