But what about guns? ?
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.
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.