Keeping Our Children Safe

As our children become aware of the horror that struck a Connecticut elementary school Friday, many, especially the younger ones, will need to be comforted. Many will want assurances what happened there cannot occur here.

Sadly, we adults know the answer to that. The evil that spurs a human being to do what was done to innocent little children Friday is both vicious and devilishly cunning. There is no guarantee it can be prevented.

No doubt educators throughout the Ohio Valley, like their peers elsewhere, are wondering today if there is more that can be done to safeguard the children in their – and our – schools. Certainly, such second-guessing of security measures is wise. It should be an ongoing exercise.

Much already is being done to keep evil-doers out of our schools and to cope with them if they manage to get in. Some schools have sophisticated security measures and equipment. Some have resource officers – armed police and sheriff’s deputies assigned to patrol within schools. Law enforcement agencies throughout the Northern Panhandle and East Ohio work closely with educators, helping them identify security weaknesses and devising plans to deal with trouble if it occurs.

As we have noted many times in the past, resource officers are among the most effective shields against violence in schools, for reasons going far beyond their presence as armed guards. Because of their relationships with students and faculty, they sometimes can head off trouble before violence breaks out.

But the key to saving lives in situations such as what happened in Connecticut is not attempting to keep evil out of schools. Again, that simply cannot be ensured.

Already, we know of actions taken by staff at the Newtown, Conn., school that, beyond any doubt, saved the lives of some children. And stories of heroism by a few students are emerging.

Many teachers and other school staff members in our area have been trained in what to do in such horrific situations. Some have not, however, and all could benefit from regular re-training to keep their self-defense skills sharp.

Children, too, should be educated in how to react to violence, whether it be a bully in the halls or a gunman. Parents are the best judges of how to handle that, and at what age it is appropriate.

The possibility such skills will have to be used is extremely remote. Our children and their teachers are more likely to be struck by lightning than to be caught in a murderous assault in their schools. But if it does occur, being ready may save lives.

Again, parents will have to think about that and decide what is appropriate to tell their children. But school officials should be reviewing whether their security plans are realistic, and if not, what needs to be done to make them so.