What is “Keeping Schools Safe” Forum Really About?
Deborah Keller- Commentary
During the 2014–15 school year, there were 1,500 reported firearm possession incidents at schools in the United States, and the rate of firearm possession incidents was 3 per 100,000 students according to the CDC’s most recent report on school violence. That same study reported that about 5 percent of students ages 12–18 reported that they avoided at least one school activity or class or one or more places in school during the previous school year because they thought someone might attack or harm them. (https://nces.ed.gov/pubs2017/2017064.pdf)
This being said Rutherford County School system has a safety plan in effect for active shooter scenarios and a comprehensive student safety policy. It has been decided upon by the School Board and Sheriff’s Department. The safety plan was unanimously approved. It is not public knowledge for obvious reasons and those two entities will not have it publicly discussed for safety reasons.
The recent school shooting at Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida has naturally put everyone’s nerves on edge. We want answers as to how to stop these horrible things from happening and how to keep our children safe at school. The upcoming forum supposedly is based on those questions. I used the word “supposedly” here on purpose.
We as a community are afraid and that fear can be used by politicians (especially in an election year) and others to promote an agenda that does not necessarily answer any real questions or calm any real fears. When a forum is created that does not include an adequate representation of all involved and especially those who create policy and actually are serving on the “front lines” of the safety in school issues then what is it accomplishing?
The only two people on this forum who know what the plans for these scenarios are cannot discuss them publically. Janet Mason (RCS Superintendent) and Chris Francis (RC Sherriff) will not answer questions concerning specifics of the Rutherford County Schools active shooter policy. So, the question here is “Who is this Forum for”?
As the NAACP stated in their formal request for answers about the forum to the organizers, we have to ask why are there no African American, Hispanic, Asian, or other minorities represented on the Forum, and out of the 14 people on the Forum why are half of them candidates running for political office (and incidentally none of them for the School Board)?
Why are there no Principals of any of the schools represented? Why is the School Board (the body that makes all these decisions) not present to answer questions? Why is this being held at a church and not a school in the county? Many of these questions were asked of the organizer, but there has been no response as of today.
I applaud the idea of getting involved and asking questions but it is frustrating to the citizens of Rutherford County when an event is held that excludes so many directly involved and does not involve the very people that these questions need to be asked of.
Again the question here is “Who exactly is this forum for”? The students and parents of Rutherford County Schools or the people who want to be seen and heard for their own reasons? Unfortunately, this is a question that the current climate brings up again and again. If we are to truly have change and answers to our questions then we need to talk to those who make and influence policy.