This week, I spent an entire school day at my daughter’s school, Lee’s Summit Elementary.
And it wasn’t the first time, unfortunately, that I was looking at her school through the lens of a concerned parent.
Coming off the tragic and horrific Parkland, Fla., school shooting on Valentine’s Day, parents, educators and community members alike all seemingly (and rightfully so) have this topic on their collective minds.
I remember the Townville, S.C., school shooting in the fall of 2016, not long after my daughter had started kindergarten. That shooting took place on the school’s playground after a teenager crashed through a fence and opened fire. Terrifying as it is, safety concerns while our kids are outside linger with many parents to this day.
Long before that, when I was just volunteering as a reader at my daughter’s school, I vividly recall the 2012 Newtown, Conn., shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School. Parents or not at the time, none of us will forget how that mass execution of such innocent and beautiful souls changed us as Americans.
That’s the day I rushed to grandma’s from a Chamber lunch to hug my then-2-year-old Addy.
Time and again, I have walked into our Lee’s Summit schools after one of these horrific shootings. And time and again, I wonder, as I walk in, “How can we prevent this?”
I am not sure I have the answer. Maybe none of us do.
Arming teachers? That’s ludicrous. Giving educators guns to prevent another possible mass-casualty event is a plan drawn up on a napkin, with no thought at all to how that situation could unfold in the unlikely event that someone could successfully enter one of our schools with a gun.
It’s an unfortunate fact that they have done so in Lee’s Summit too often recently.
During just this school year at Lee’s Summit North, a young woman has taken her own life with a firearm and another student brought an unloaded gun to school. Those frightening moments at the high school both share unfortunate commonalities: that a gun broached what should be a sacred and safe area of our schools, the only silver lining being that numerous students and staff were not harmed in the process.
So, how in God’s name do we prevent this?
Entering a grade school in Lee’s Summit is exponentially different than entering a high school. My guess is that is the same way for many school districts our size.
You must be buzzed in at grade schools. Yet, we are still haunted by the facts that — in the cases of Newtown and Townville — security measures didn’t matter to the shooter. The shooter in Newtown blasted his way in. The shooter in Townville drove onto the playground.
We can’t feel helpless and this topic shouldn’t seem hopeless, but I am at a loss about what we can do in Lee’s Summit to give that ultimate level of security.
One thing I do know, however, is that we can talk about it. We are compelled to talk and talk and talk. School security should be near or at the top of the list during this upcoming school board election.
We cannot live in fear at our schools any more than we can in movie theaters, in our churches, at outdoor concerts, or aboard an airplane.
But we can keep the conversation moving forward. This is, in fact, what residents and patrons of the school district have been demanding for many years — active lines of communication; being heard.
A few facts to leave you with: the Lee’s Summit R-7 School District has a page for school safety topics, including Active Shooter/Intruder Response Training: http://www.lsr7.org/district/school-safety/
Also, each R-7 middle and high school has a full-time resource officer who is a member of the Lee’s Summit Police Department and armed with a standard-issue .40-caliber Glock.
The roles, time and investment we make in counselors inside our schools is a critical piece of this topic as well.
If it seems like this issue is multi-layered, that’s because it is. Nationwide, we had better start peeling that onion and turning talk and topics into actionable plans.
Lee’s Summit resident John Beaudoin writes about city and civic issues, people and personalities around town. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.