Editorials

We'll soon need to send our youngsters to Fort Knox Elementary

Students are released from a lockdown outside of Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, after reports of an active shooter Feb. 14.
Students are released from a lockdown outside of Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, after reports of an active shooter Feb. 14. South Florida Sun Sentinel

You would have thought we'd had enough nearly two decades ago when two disturbed students trapped their peers and started slaughtering 13 of them at Columbine High School. But, no.

It was followed by an Amish schoolhouse shooting, Virginia Tech, Northern Illinois University and Oikos University.

Even when 27 little kids and their teachers died at Sandy Hook Elementary five years ago, you would have thought we'd had enough.

It appears that grieving parents were not enough. What finally got to our national conscience were the pleas of the child victims themselves after they saw the Valentine's Day massacre of 17 friends and educators at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla.

Teens on "Face the Nation." Teens on CNN. Teens telling President Trump that adults are actively failing them.

"I’m only 15 years old ... I was born into a world where I never got to experience safety and peace," student Justin Gruber told Trump. "This has to never happen again. People need to feel like when they go to school they can be safe. Parents shouldn't have to go through the idea of losing their child."

Gruber is a sophomore who survived the Parkland shooting.

So how do we answer him?

Maybe we are smarter if we set aside the battle with the Second Amendment. Maybe we start by making schools safer. That is an expensive proposition, but we as a nation spend trillions securing foreign soil and borders and points of entry. What value do we place on our children?

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In this AP file photo from June 24, 2016, an AR-15 is held in Auburn, Ga. Lisa Marie Pane AP

U.S. Rep. John Shimkus recently visited. The Republican from Collinsville served in the military and in the classroom. He sees paths forward that start with schools.

Must we turn our schools into fortresses? Yes, he said.

Most schools already have a buzzer system to deny entry to random visitors. They have surveillance systems to find and record trouble.

There is more technology available.

Schools may add muzzle flash detectors. An Indiana high school feeds video directly to the sheriff's office, requires teachers to wear panic buttons, installed bullet-proof doors and spent $400,000 on hallway smoke cannons to disorient an active shooter.

We can educate our kids about what to do to survive. Children drilled on what to do in the case of a nuclear attack, a fire and a tornado. Active shooter drills are the new normal.

We can rely on the armed, uniformed professional police officers in schools. Budget challenges took away some school resource officers, but Highland, for one, is looking for a way to bring them back.

But should we arm Miss Othmar?

Teachers have enough demands on them without adding professional development sessions at the firing range. There seems to be great potential for an accidental shooting, or of a troubled student getting a gun away from a teacher, or for an active shooter to have more firepower than the teacher.

Better to let the professionals do the jobs for which they were trained. Teachers teach. Officers protect and serve.

Maybe $400,000 smoke cannons are too much, but they are part of a conversation that must result in action and will require us to shift priorities and resources.

We owed it to our kids 19 years ago. Damn us if we continue to ignore them.

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