Dear Editor:

I believe there is a better way to protect our school children other than simply arming a school administrator or teacher in the classroom. Presently, our schools are declared “gun free zones,” and that policy does not protect our students, teachers or school staff. However, instead of arming teachers alone, I believe we need to hire professionally trained law enforcement officers at every school in Jackson County. These officers, commonly referred to as a School Resource Officer (SRO), offer the best opportunity to stop security threats or acts of violence at our schools.

Having a SRO at every school throughout the county is the first step in addressing the problem of school safety and it’s time our state legislators provide the necessary funds to address this urgent need. It is unrealistic to believe that an armed teacher would provide the same amount of protection as that of a trained law enforcement officer.

At this time, there are only two School Resource Officers that float among all the county schools and that is simply inadequate to respond to an actual emergency.

A teacher’s primary responsibility should be to teach our students and it is unclear just how many teachers would be willing to be trained to face an armed attacker. Certainly, you could find some teachers who would be capable of providing some assistance in the case of an emergency. However, an armed teacher, staff member or administrator would be best used as a supplement to the use of an armed School Resource Officer. While teachers, staff and administrators have other duties during the day, a SRO’s sole responsibility would be to ensure a safe campus.

In Montgomery, legislators are quick to react to a news event and then go about fixing the problem without fully investigating the issue or seeking input from people in their district who have a better understanding of the problem. I would be shocked to discover that the Scottsboro Board of Education, the Jackson County Board of Education or the State Board of Education is in support of a bill to arm teachers. Legislating from the top down does not properly address the issues facing our communities. And, while a serious debate should take place regarding the arming of teachers, more immediate steps can be taken to make schools safer.

Gov. Kay Ivey has created a council, Securing Alabama Facilities of Education (SAFE) which includes state officials in law enforcement, education, mental health and information technology to address the issue of school security. The Alabama Legislature created an Emergency Task Force on School Safety and Security in 2016 and a report was produced which included many recommendations.

However, many of the recommendations were not followed and the task force was disbanded after the report was issued. School security must be addressed in a deliberative manner and we must follow through on the recommendations made by the Governor’s task force. Our children deserve to be safe and secure in their classrooms.

—Parker Edmiston


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