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Our view: Focus on school safety

Published: Friday, Feb. 22, 2013 5:30 a.m. CDT

Children represent hope.

And when we witness that precious innocence lost through a tragedy, we want to find new ways to keep them safe so the promise they embody comes to fruition.

But in the wake of the Dec. 14 shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut, we urge caution to local education officials when it comes to new ideas of how to secure schools.

Jim Harrison, candidate in the 2014 McHenry County sheriff race, has recommended having an armed officer in every school each school day from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. He wants to pool all state-certified law enforcement officers in the county and compile a list of those interested in working part time during off-duty hours.

Many local schools do have officers in schools regularly, but Harrison said his program calls for more than a liaison role.

The safety of our children is paramount. Of course we should work to prevent violence in our schools. We agree that security needs to be examined at our local schools and changes made if necessary.

But this idea oversteps local authority. The sheriff’s office doesn’t even have jurisdiction over all the schools in the county. That right belongs to the municipality the school is in.

And where would the funding for this come from? Would there be insurance costs or concerns? Harrison proposes intergovernmental agreements between school districts, municipalities and the county that would pay for it, and that grants should be sought as well.

Many school districts are facing deficits and wait months for state payments. Do we need to place one more unfunded mandate on them that might not even be necessary, as smaller schools in rural areas are likely to have different issues than ones in larger communities.

We encourage districts to examine security, assess risks and address any deficiencies. But it should be done on a school-by-school basis, and not by a unilateral directive.

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