By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN
BG Independent News
Thoughts are prayers aren’t keeping schools safe – so some citizens suggested Bowling Green City Schools look at arming teachers and posting more police.
During Tuesday’s school board meeting, Paul Tyson looked out into the audience at teachers who would die for their students.
“Why wouldn’t you be ready to fight for them,” he asked.
Earlier in the meeting, Superintendent Francis Scruci asked those present to take a moment of silence for the victims at Parkland, Florida.
“Last week, we were reminded of our vulnerability in the face of evil,” he said.
Scruci talked about the need for more mental health resources and stricter gun laws. He mentioned the need for a tip line allowing anonymous reporting of suspected threats. He talked about the “Boot” system which allows every Bowling Green classroom to be locked to intruders. While some schools would have pile up items in front of doors, the “Boot” can secure doors in a matter of seconds, he said.
“The reality is every school is vulnerable,” Scruci said. “Like everyone else, I get up in the morning and pray that it doesn’t happen here.”
Tyson, an off-duty Bowling Green police officer, suggested that the district needs an “armed presence” through part-time police or military, and training of teachers so they could carry firearms in school. Then, the district should put a big sign out front of the schools stating that the building is defended by firearms – discouraging any potential shooters, he said.
“We will take your comments under advisement,” School Board President Jill Carr said.
“I do believe you have plenty of people in town who will help you with this,” Tyson said.
Jaime Baranski agreed with Tyson, saying shooters won’t attempt violence at a school that is well defended.
“They’re there to shoot fish in a barrel,” Baranski said. “If there’s a patrol car outside, they’re not going to come to this building.”
If the district can’t afford armed protection, Baranski suggested that parents could donate to help secure police assistance or someone like himself with a concealed carry permit.
As far as threats on social media, Baranski said tougher consequences are the answer. “You threaten a school, it’s jail time – automatic six years.”
Richard Chamberlain said when he went to the high school in 1977, guns weren’t an issue.
“My pickup used to sit out there with a shotgun in the back. It’s difficult for me to think that the gun is, or ever was, the issue.”
Chamberlain called it “disheartening” that the district wouldn’t allow teachers to be armed, and instead send them out to be “slaughtered.”
But not everyone believes more guns are the solution to school violence.
“More guns mean more injuries,” Jorge Chavez said, adding that there is no evidence that armed officers and metal detectors prevent school violence. Those steps would be a reaction to “shock and fear” of recent school attacks, and would result in increasing the fear of students, he said.
In response to the claim that school shootings don’t occur in urban schools that have officers and metal detectors, Chavez said that those shootings just don’t get the same media coverage.
“I want us to make smart choices,” he said.
Aaron Sayer agreed.
“We need to do something. But more guns in schools is not the solution,” he said.
Sayer said the Parkland school had two police officers on the campus last week – and that didn’t deter the shooter.
“More guns is not going to work,” he said. “A shootout with kids in between is not the answer.”
Sayer suggested instead that people push government to ban assault rifles and restrict some people from buying guns. “We’ve got to do more than thoughts and prayers.”
Kirsty Sayer pointed out that accurate statistics on gun violence are not known because the CDC has not been allowed to conduct thorough research due to resistance from the NRA.
“We all have the same goals. We want kids to be safe in the schools,” she said. Sayer said she has five children who are feeling distracted in school due to the potential for violence. “They are not feeling safe and secure in the schools.”
She suggested more programs be implemented to identify troubled students, rather than responding after violence with “what a tragedy.”
Kirsty Sayer asked if another meeting will be held on the topic of school safety. “I want specifics,” she said.
Carr said the board will include the community in discussions. “The board takes this issue very seriously,” she said.
“This is the kind of discussion that is helpful to the community,” board member Norm Geer said. He mentioned the safety benefits of a consolidated elementary, compared to the current elementaries built in the 1950s, with some student classrooms located in modular units.
Scruci said the issue of more guns in the schools is a difficult one. “I think right now, the topic is so raw that I really can’t make a comment.”
Carr also had concerns. “I’ve never been a proponent of arming teachers. I need more information,” she said.