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Make it harder for bad people to penetrate our schools

“We also hear and see in the media too many unfortunate examples — whether it be a church, businesses, government buildings or even schools — where people are coming into those buildings and doing harm to others.”

Former Marshall Public Schools District Superintendent Scott Monson made that comment at a 2019 board meeting during a discussion over approving funding security upgrades at two school sites.

The “unfortunate examples” Monson was referring to three years ago are increasing across the nation.

On May 24, evil struck the small community of Uvalde, Texas. A 18-year-old gunman walked into an elementary school and killed 19 students and two teachers. Just a week earlier, another 18-year-old gunman walked into a Buffalo, New York supermarket and killed 10 Black people. During the span of those two shootings, other smaller mass shootings occurred in other public sites in different parts of the nation.

The Buffalo and Texas shootings have reignited the gun control debate. While polling shows majorities of Americans think shootings would occur less often if guns were harder to get, the subject is still a political hot potato for lawmakers in Congress. A bipartisan group of senators did hold a virtual meeting Tuesday to strike a compromise over gun safety legislation, but expectations remain low.

We can’t wait for the politicians to act.

So what can we do to protect our children safe inside schools?

Well, it starts in the room Monson stood during that school board meeting back in 2019. Our school officials need to continue reviewing safety upgrades to buildings and train teachers to be always vigilant.

While the investigation into what went wrong in Uvalde is just getting underway, it’s alleged that the door the gunman used to get into the school was left propped open. If true, that’s a definite security lapse.

Marshall, like other school districts in southern Minnesota, have invested in a number of security upgrades at facilities and also in training. Back in March, Marshall High School Principal Brian Jones delivered a report on security upgrades to the school board. Besides security cameras, he reported that front doors are locked during the school day and visitors can only enter by being buzzed into the main office.

Both Marshall and New Ulm school districts have presented active shooter training to teachers and other personnel. These programs, such as ALICE (alert, lockdown, inform, counter, evacuate), are promoted as a “life skill” that may come in handy not only in schools, but in other public areas.

This is now the world we live in now. Schools from pre-school to universities must prepare for that worst-case scenario.

If it can happen in Uvalde, it could also happen in Marshall, New Ulm or Fairmont.

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