You hear it all too often these days, yet another mass shooting. It can be anywhere, a movie theater, a mall, a college campus, and now the sickening trend has somehow included our schools. School, the place that is supposed to be safe and fun, where children of all ages go to learn and grow, make friends, discover talents and gain independence. Now, somehow, it has become a place where parents must take a leap of faith by simply dropping their “babies” off and waving good-bye wearing a big smile on their faces. I know my big, encouraging smile hides an uneasiness and to be quite honest, fear. The fear of the unthinkable, the fear that this “safe haven” is not necessarily so “safe” any longer, in a society where mental illness lurks. Fear that now “lives” in my mind until my child is back in my car at 2:45 pm.
Sitting back, hoping and praying something terrible will not happen in our own communities is simply not an option. How would we all feel if and when something terrible did happen, “could we have done more“, “should we have done more”? There would be no excuses. So what must be done? Everything. We cannot put a price tag on human life and safety. For starters, all schools must have a highly trained, full-time school resource officer on campus during the entire school day. It is imperative that there be an officer at each school with the sole purpose and responsibility of keeping the children and staff safe. We have all heard the recommendation by some to train principals, teachers and other school staff and allow them to carry a concealed weapon to protect students, however, we cannot ask or expect them to do more than they already do to provide a safe and stimulating learning environment for our children. An armed security officer who is professionally and extensively trained through our law enforcement system would provide security, peace of mind and act as a deterrent to anyone with ill intentions to even approach a school. If there had been an armed officer in Sandy Hook Elementary School on that horrific day in December, would the outcome have been different? Obviously I cannot answer that question, but I can feel confident in saying there very well could have been a much different outcome, perhaps one where fewer, if any, precious lives were taken.
Funding, funding, funding. Yes, that is what we all hear. Our poor education system is very often the place where funds are pulled from year after year. However, the excuse to do nothing because “there is just no funding to hire additional security officers”, is just that, an excuse. The funding must be found. The funding is what is needed to ensure the continued safety of our children, our teachers and our future.
So where can the funding come from? Good question. Taxes? Maybe. How about if we take a look at our South Carolina Education Lottery income? Wait a minute, what was that, the South Carolina Education Lottery? I think it is more than safe to say that part of our education system must include and start with the responsibility to ensure the children’s safety. They must be safe in order to learn and grow. I know some of the money created by the lottery is used for college scholarships and I believe these scholarships are very important and earned by many well-deserving, hard-working young adults. Do I want to take anything away from any of those individuals? No, of course I do not. But then I must ask myself, and everyone else along with me, don’t our children in elementary, middle and high schools first need to be safe in order to learn and grow and get to the point of heading to college? And further, aren’t there other areas in which this lottery money is used that can somehow be reallocated to ensure funding for school resource officers? Maybe even partially? Maybe a little from here and a little from there?
The answer may be that some funding must be shifted in light of this pressing need. Funding may have to come partially from the lottery monies, partially from some other sources, throw in a slight increase in taxes perhaps. I will admit I do not know where it will come from, but I do know it must be found. And now is the time.
I believe very strongly that our friends at the State House and State Senate want what the rest of us want: safe schools and happy and safe children. Join with me in letting your voice be heard. Let’s all work together to make this happen. Let’s show the nation that South Carolina loves their children and will do whatever it takes to ensure their safety. Let us all know we are doing what it takes to keep our little ones safe in an ever-changing society, a society that too often does not seem to be headed in the right direction. Times are changing and so must the way we approach security in our schools.