Our View: Guilford schools examine security

Feb. 10, 2013 @ 02:38 AM

Since the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary, school district officials here and across the nation have been evaluating school security measures, and suggestions for action have ranged from as low-key as adding doorbells at school entrances to as drastic as allowing teachers to carry guns in the classroom.
Somewhere in between there is where we need to be.
In Guilford County in the wake of the Newtown, Conn., incident, a task force of school officials, including four school board members, has been formed to study current security measures and explore possible actions for strengthening them. According to reports, plans are for this task force to hold public sessions to gain input from parents and the community in general. That’s a wise move.
Nora Carr, Guilford Schools chief of staff, said the task force will focus on four areas: building security; student/school/law enforcement communication; mental health services and emergency preparedness. Carr said work of the task force could take up to six months.
However, in the meantime, schools in Guilford County have taken some additional security precautions. Schools are now locking more doors at entrances to their buildings. They also have increased or installed procedures to keep better track of visitors at schools. These are common sense reactions that aren’t costly and don’t run the risk of actually hurting overall safety and security. Some suggestions we’ve heard do.
For instance, some suggest allowing teachers who are trained and licensed to carry firearms to do so in classrooms. We’ll try to remain open-minded on this, but we just don’t see any up-side to this. Having firearms so accessible in classrooms and hallways seems to increase the chance of accidents more so than student security.
However, we wonder if training some school personnel in firearms safety and use and then having a few secure weapons available for them at school might be a viable option. We wonder if Newtown’s horror could have been averted or lessened if the school principal who confronted the murderer had been trained and armed.
Certainly, the idea of increasing law enforcement presence at schools must be considered. And currently, that notion is our favorite. Guilford County already spends about $2.6 million annually to fund 40 school resource officers at high and middle schools. Many other school systems here and around the nation have similar setups. It seems that expanding the scope of the SRO program would increase school security by building on an existing program.
The tragedy at Newtown compels us to examine school security measures and to include different perspectives and to evaluate all possible alternatives. But at all times, we should approach this from the standpoint that the well-being and security of the students is foremost.