The tragedy we remember today was as horrible and ugly as they come. And come they have. Repeatedly.
Too often, the tragedy results in the death or serious injury of our children. Often, it is our children who perpetrate the deed.
It happened again just last week. This time it was in Murraysville, Pennsylvania. This time it was at the Franklin Regional High School. This time it was knives.
Just as school was about to start, a student armed with two knives walked through the building and began stabbing people. By the time it was over, two students were in critical condition at a nearby hospital and the third was on life-support.
School violence seems to have become an almost expected reality. In days gone by, there was always some such violence. However, school-related stabbings, shootings and killings frequentLy found in the news.
We try to fight the trend via the usual approach, namely, jacking up criminal penalties and enacting do-nothing-but-feel-good such as semi-recent anti-bullying law. The result? The citizenry feels good for a little while and the problem continues.
Some approaches, however, show some promise.
The seriousness with which instances of school violence are treated changed after the Columbine massacre. Then, a couple of years ago, a gunman killed 20 first-graders and six adults at the Sandyhook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut. Now, there is even more scrutiny of security procedures in schools.
For better…and for worse.
“I don’t think anybody walks around saying it’s not going to happen here,” said John Panica, who works as a school resource officer at Massachusetts’ Newton North High School. “I think people say it could, and as long as you’re prepared you’re able to deal with those things.”
“It was a wake-up call that it can happen in any town and in any place in America,” said Canton Detective Chip Yeaton, who works as a school resource officer at Canton High School. Yeaton, who also serves as the president of the Massachusetts Juvenile Police Officer’s Association – an organization that represents school resource officers – estimated that about 70 percent of school districts in the state have at least one police officer working in a school.
Immediately after Sandy Hook, Reading police Officer Corey Santasky worked with the school district to review its building security, and spent time at schools to reassure children and parents that students were protected.
“After Sandy Hook, I went to all of the elementary schools every day and greeted the kids every morning to show them we’re there to help them and keep them safe,” he said.
Police presence is seen as serving two functions. First of all, and perhaps most important to many, it offers a feeling, if not reality, of security. Second, police point to the relationships they’ve built with students and teachers as proactive measures that have helped prevent possible mass shootings. In Marshfield, for example, police got word of an attack planned for 2005 to coincide with the sixth anniversary of the April 20, 1999 shootings at Columbine High School in Colorado that left 15 people dead. Three students who plotted a similar attack in 2001 were thwarted in New Bedford.
But more often than not, school cops can be found in the halls chatting and listening to students. Some are plainclothes, and some, like Santasky, wear a uniform. Walking the halls of Reading High School, Santasky said he believes listening to kids can prevent major problems.
“My goal is to make sure they can trust me, that I’m a resource for them,” Santasky said.
More and more police officers are being stationed in Massachusetts schools – serving as role models and lecturing to classes on drugs and alcohol, bullying and, more recently, cyber activity such as sexting. Most appear to be masters of small talk: They schmooze with students to gain trust, pull lunch monitor duty like teachers, and walk a beat through the halls in between classes, trying to learn as many names of students as possible. Many even spend some of their weekends at schools, attending games, dances, and plays.
Attorney Sam’s Take On Law Enforcement, Schools And Your Children (Part One)
Nobody can disagree that having a police presence at a school means extra security. It might even help in easing kids’ views about the police.
This blog generally focuses on warning the reader about dangers the Massachusetts crimnal justice system (and the nightmare called DCF) presents to the unwary.
Most people, particularly the innocent, are indeed unwary.
You will notice that I mentioned above that this extra attention to school violence has both positive and negative effects. The positive ones are pretty obvious. Take the police presence for example. More police presence provides extra security should a problem arise. Further, if handled correctly, the police may even strike up relationships with kids which serve as a more positive foundation to those kids’ reaction to law enforcement.
Everyone is happy with the positives…but few truly understand the negatives.
That is, until said negatives effect their child.
What do I mean?
Check back tomorrow.
For the original stories upon which this blog is based, please go to http://www.bostonglobe.com/metro/regionals/north/2014/04/05/police-suburban-schools-now-focus-security/0kieakc5fYGktEhX4K5BXO/story.html