Allen County a step ahead in prevention of school violence

Bob Rinearson

This April 20 will mark the 20th anniversary of the Columbine school massacre. Ten students and one teacher were murdered by seniors Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold, who took their own lives. The issue of school security has not been the same since.

According to the Washington Post, since Columbine “More than 187,000 students attending at least 193 primary or secondary schools have experienced a shooting on campus during school hours.” Even off campus, students have learned tragically that violence is never far away, as occurred in January of 2013.

Here in Fort Wayne, after disembarking off a school bus, a high school student recently allegedly exchanged gunfire with an adversary, sending other students running for their lives. He had the gun with him in school all that day apparently with no one the wiser.

But this is not a piece about gun control. In the world of school security, there are a lot of experts who will be more than happy to come to your school and assist you in evaluating whatever is needed to make the school safer. They can point out needs including everything from security cameras to public access to lock-down drills or confidential phone tip-lines. Some are excellent and bring a wealth of experience to the table. But not all of them are as expert as they make themselves out to be. They’ll have you spending money where perhaps money doesn’t need to be spent.

But there is another aspect of school security that doesn’t get the attention it should: the training of school employees.

Notice I say school employees rather than just teacher training. I would include everyone from custodians to librarians to bus drivers to aides and secretaries. Anyone with bad intentions entering a school may be just as likely to run into a cafeteria worker as they would a teacher. Everyone needs to be on board when coming up against the obvious or not so obvious threat.

Training may include what to discuss with students if they become aware that a fellow classmate is giving signs of committing a crime. A school employee must understand that the students are the best sources of information when knowing what other students are planning or what they may have in their possession.

Such training doesn’t have to cost the school district an arm and a leg. Local police agencies, medical groups and social agencies often have the right people on hand who are willing and eager to assist. Fortunately, Allen County has been a step ahead in offering insight and preparing our local schools for the unthinkable. For several years now, the Allen County School Safety Commission has been the conduit for the public and private schools and local universities in bringing emergency responders and educators together.

But we cannot allow ourselves to be lulled into a state of apathy, believing that such tragedies can never happen here.

Robert Rinearson is a resident of Fort Wayne