Can’t afford to wait for politicians to keep students safe

Twenty years after the Columbine High School shooting left 12 students dead, America is still desperately searching for ways to protect students inside schools from deviant attackers. Since Columbine, several more massacres have occurred at school sites across the nation, including the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre in Newtown, Connecticut, and the tragedy at Parkland in Florida.

While the shootings have sparked outrage, lawmakers in Washington, D.C., and in state houses across the nation have accomplished little in protecting students. Lawmakers are stuck in the endless debates over guns. Even very little agreement can be reached over how to deal with those suffering from mental illness.

There have been some small political victories, such as a law passed last year in the Minnesota Legislature and signed by former Gov. Mark Dayton that set aside $25 million in capital investment funds that schools could apply for to make physical safety improvements. Southwest Minnesota schools in Tracy, Dawson-Boyd and Marshall received funding. All three school districts had the foresight to apply for the grants. Because of that grant, Marshall Middle School received $490,670 and West Side Elementary is getting $191,690.

But officials at Marshall Public Schools decided to not become complacent after receiving those security improvement grants. Last August, the district’s safety committee went before the board asking for support in implementing the ALICE model of dealing with active shooter situations in all of the school sites. ALICE stands for alert, lockdown, inform, counter and evacuate. It was developed by the ALICE Training Institute.

The members of that committee immediately got busy in providing a game plan for all the schools to follow in training staff and students for steps to take during an active shooting event. On Monday, the safety committee went before the board once again to report their progress.

While there were concerns over the training causing anxiety among some students, members of the committee concluded that a majority of the students reacted well to the instruction and drills. Marshall High School Principal Brian Jones told the board he was confident the students were developing life skills that will benefit not only at school, but in attending entertainment events, going to a theater or just attending church.

Indeed, such life skills are vital because we are finding out that deadly danger can lurk just about anywhere. There are no sacred places that people can feel completely safe.

The lesson here is that we can’t afford to wait for the politicians to fix all of the problems — especially when it comes to the safety of our students.

The members of that committee deserve credit for following that lesson. And students and staff in the Marshall Schools District are now that much more prepared if the worst-case scenario occurs at a school site.

More schools should follow their lead.