No reason to wait for safety

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I pen this as a member of our community, a father of an eighth-grader, former school board member and a businessman.

I am not going to belabor the point of how tragic the latest school shooting was. Enough people are already in the mode of commenting on the obvious.

Clearly, any community is vulnerable to the madness that is a school shooting. Recent events prove it. So, what is it that can be done beyond the obvious, repetitive rhetoric we always hear for a week or two beyond the event? What can we actually do to effect immediate change when addressing the safety and security of our school populations? Change that can actually provide a true improvement to the safety and security of our teaching staff, students and administrators?

We as a community, you as a community leader, you the business patriarch, you the philanthropist, we as taxpayers, our government leaders CAN do something!

Our teachers are worried … anxious. They’re concerned about their students’ safety and they are concerned about their own safety. So, what can we do?

When considering our schools, we have more security when entering our own county courthouse, getting on an airplane or train. We go through more scrutiny when entering a concert, convention or Disneyland/World than at any of our schools. Ballparks even require a brief look into handbags or backpacks. Many of these places deal with getting thousands of patrons “through the gates” — not just a single school’s population. Yet at our schools we constantly take the stand of “that won’t work!” It only “won’t work” because we choose as a community to take that stance, to paint over the surface of the issue rather than stepping up and doing something!

As a substitute teacher at our high schools, I see the vulnerabilities. The numerous backpacks that enter with each student, yet never looked into. The ease of bypassing the “buzzer” that allows entrance to the school building at off hours. The constant coming and going of students through the school entrance without that entrance being monitored.

So, we do nothing? Is it a fiscal issue — money? Or is it misplaced priorities? Or is it simply easier to provide the forecastable lip-service?

Here is a fix, a doable, proven something that CAN be done.

a. Place one or two walk-through metal detectors at the entrance to the school.

b. Have the school RSO at the entrance each morning to monitor those detectors. Have a staff member assisting.

c. Two tables to allow backpacks to be quickly searched by staff.

How do we pay for this? Ahhh … so again the commitment to actually doing something comes down to money, does it? Misplaced priorities maybe?

We have only 19 schools in 271. Two high schools and three middle schools. So even addressing high schools first, one then the other, money issues are an excuse not to take action. The average walk-through metal detector costs around $3,698. Buying 25 of these costs us $100,000. Start dividing that number by the number of business that could step up to the plate to contribute. Divide that number by those in our community who have been fortunate in building wealth well beyond the average.

When is the last time a school bond failed? This issue not important enough? Community fundraising actions, like the yearly pass the boot, are things that can pay for detectors. Or the right truly concerned somebody could simply write the community’s kids a check!

I understand there are always additional costs … supervision, additional RSOs, installation and maintenance of equipment. That (money) is not a reason to fail to get something done.

Let’s not let some tragic event happen here. Here in Coeur d’Alene. Let’s not look for reasons why we can’t do this. Maybe we change a school schedule here or there; maybe we look into truly locking our schools down during the school day; maybe we put in secure school entrances as I have suggested.

Maybe we do nothing and just hope it doesn’t happen here … to our schools … to our children … to our teachers.



Jim Purtee is a former restaurant owner and member of the Coeur d’Alene School Board.

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