CONTRIBUTORS

One Maine superintendent’s view: Congress should assign safety officers in public schools

Posted Dec. 20, 2012, at 1:39 p.m.

Once again, there has been another tragic shooting, and once again politicians are all over the media calling for stricter gun controls. Yet, in September 2004, Congress let the assault weapons ban expire. We Americans are fond of our Second Amendment rights, and politicians simply don’t have the courage to pass meaningful gun control legislation.

Let’s face it, true gun control in this nation isn’t happening anytime soon; it’s too complicated. Even if an assault-weapons ban was reinstated today, it’s unlikely that our nation’s schools would be markedly safer.

It’s estimated by Michael Roberts, a reporter with the Denver Post, that since that fateful day at Columbine High School in 1999, there have been 179 major school shooting incidents. I don’t know how many dead and wounded, but one is too many. There are those who blame bullies, the mentally ill and the National Rifle Association.

Perhaps the real blame rests with a nation that has become complacent with a culture of violence? I don’t know. No one knows.

The bigger question is: How do we protect our children now, in the aftermath of the deadliest school shooting ever? I propose that Congress pass what could be called the Sandy Hook School Safety Act.

This act would be titled such, so we never forget this tragic event. Enough is enough; it’s time for our nation to get serious about school safety. There are 98,817 public schools in the U.S., and most are considered “soft” targets with no security beyond a locked door.

This proposed act would provide for what would be highly trained federal school safety officers in every public school in this nation. These officers would work for a Directorate of School Safety under the auspices of Homeland Security.

The Directorate would be fully funded by a dedicated federal tax on gun and ammunition sales. By some estimates the firearm industry is worth $4.1 billion, so I suspect that such a tax could generate sufficient funds to operate. Just like the cigarette tax, the firearms and ammunition tax would be used to mitigate these products’ ill effects on society.

The Directorate of School Safety would also handle threats of violence, bullying, physical plant security and response protocols to acts of terror. Disturbed individuals are not the sole threat to our schools. If al-Qaida really wanted to strike terror in the hearts of all Americans it would simply stage multiple attacks on elementary schools simultaneously. Such an event would have a “shock-and-awe” effect of sufficient magnitude to effectively cripple this great nation.

The federal government guards our airports, railroads and post offices. It only makes sense to guard our children as well.

To my knowledge, there has not been an attack on a school where law enforcement personnel were visibly present. Many Iraq and Afghanistan veterans have returned home only to struggle finding gainful employment. These good men and women have been tested under fire and have many skills needed to become effective federal school safety officers. With proper screening and extensive training at one of Homeland Security’s law enforcement and public safety training centers, we could begin deploying safety officers in our nation’s schools by year’s end.

Each officer would be issued a well-marked vehicle to be prominently parked in front of every school as a reminder of our nation’s resolve to stand ever-vigilant against threats to our children.

School leaders and local law enforcement do their level best to ensure student safety, but it’s time we did more.

Some politicians have suggested arming principals, teachers or janitors — ridiculous. Others call for a review of emergency plans — an exercise in false hope. Today’s harsh reality is that there are evil people who will stop at nothing to kill children. A Sandy Hook School Safety Act promises safe and secure schools for our nation.

Daniel Lee is superintendent of the Brewer School Department.

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