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February 10, 2013
On October 27, 1881 The Tombstone Daily Epitaph ran the following banner at the top of the front page, “Yesterday’s Tragedy”. The sub heading that day read, “Three Men Hurled into Eternity in the Duration of a Moment”. Like many of you, I pray that this scene doesn’t replay itself in a school yard somewhere. I pray that a teacher, a principal and a custodian aren’t required to play the part of Wyatt or Morgan Earp and Doc Holliday.
As a student of History and Political Science, I am certain that the past does indeed teach us things which we can use to make the future a better event. The events from mid December of last year at Sandy Hook, Connecticut remind us that we continue to live in a dangerous world. The tragedy in Connecticut was especially painful because of the age of the victims and the proximity to the Christmas season.
However, this isn’t the first attack on school children, and probably won’t be the last. History tells us that the first known attack on American school children happened as an act of war. During Pontiac’s Rebellion in 1764 a school in Pennsylvania, a teacher and either nine or ten school children were shot and killed (reports vary on the number of students who were killed). In fact, just a couple of years after The Gunfight at the OK Corral in Tombstone, in Cleveland, Tennessee, Will Guess went to the local school and fatally shot teacher, Miss Irene Fann for punishing his younger sister by whipping her the day before. The first mass shooting of students at school happened over a hundred years before the tragedy at Columbine High School in April of 1999. On April 9, 1891, in Newburgh, NY, James Foster fired a shotgun at students on the playground, wounding several of them.
The single most violent attack on a school occurred on May 18, 1927 in Bath, Michigan. A school employee blew up his school by detonating dynamite that he had placed in the school basement. Andrew Kehoe shot a single shot into the basement setting off an explosion that killed 38 people, mostly children and then blew up his car in front of the school killing his self and four additional victims.
The point of this blog is not a history lesson, the point is that we should learn from the past and examine our History for ways that we can provide a safe, secure environment for our students. The politics of fear and despair are easier than the management of events. The talk at the Capital and in the media has been reactionary at best. Lt. Governor Todd Lamb, a former Secret Service agent, is heading up a commission on school safety. We welcome any suggestions that his commission might suggest that will ensure that we are prepared for any event and pray that they won’t ever be necessary. We are aware that there is a political movement to allow our staff and faculty to carry weapons while at school. While we certainly would hope that there might be a better way than arming our teachers, we must consider that if Oklahoma State law allows it. Some have suggested funding and placing a peace officer in our schools. Some have suggested that we have riot control or “less than lethal” tools placed in strategic stations in our schools in sort of the way our fire extinguishers are placed. Again, the point is that we study all of our options and that we do every single thing to keep a crazy person from harming our students.
The well being of our young people and our employees demands that we look at every opportunity to make our situation safer. In case you haven’t been to school lately in El Reno, we would like you to know that we have certain policies and procedures in place that protect our staff, faculty and our students. We have secured entry systems that are monitored by our office staff and we have cameras in place at all the entries to our buildings. The patrons of the District recently voted for secured vestibules to be constructed at our existing sites and they will be secure on the new facilities as well. We have an on going discussion and input with local law enforcement about ways to improve our safety issues. We also welcome any ideas from the public regarding school safety. We are asking for your input and ideas. Contact me at 262-1703 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.