Shouldn’t Safety Come First?

I watch the news every day out of pure curiosity. Between coverage of cat videos on YouTube and the latest celebrity baby bump, TV news usually does a good job trying to scare us about violence.

Whenever I see newscasters chronicle repeated deadly shootings around the country, it gets me worried about what would happen if a gunman showed up at Grant’s doorstep. It’s not unimaginable, especially given many of the ultra-publicized mass shootings in the last year.

Twenty elementary school students and six adults were gunned down by a shooter at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Conn. In Oregon, a young man carrying a cache of weapons shot and killed two people in Clackamas Town Center in the middle of a busy shopping day. Twelve people died and 58 were injured at the hands of a man in his 20s who opened fire at the premier of “The Dark Knight” in Aurora, Co.

It all hits so close to home. When it comes to Grant and other Portland schools, we have to ask ourselves: Can we send our children to school without fear of a shooter?

I don’t want to get into a debate about gun control or gun rights. The numbers speak for themselves. There have been more than 1,200 shooting deaths in this country since the Newtown massacre. And there are 300 million-plus guns in the hands of American civilians.

Whatever side you’re on, we’re missing something that’s happening in our school district that could jeopardize everyone’s safety – the possibility of getting rid of school resource police officers. At Grant, we’ve been lucky enough to have a Portland Police Officer in the role. Officer Spencer Sheldon builds relationships with students and tries to keep them from going down the wrong path. Because of the way he does his job and how he connects with students, Sheldon is able to find out about potential dangers and diffuse them. Those relationships with a trusted adult make a big difference in the safety of our schools. And having the police visible at school also helps.

Unfortunately, Sheldon and other police officers are on the chopping block to save the school district money. With those budget cuts, the benefits of having a resource officer in the school will disappear and the entire school climate could shift. I worry that if we don’t have resource officers, students would be more likely to bring violence to the school, especially knowing that there is nobody on campus who can stop them. With other more drastic proposed solutions to violence in schools, the last thing our school district should do is eliminate one of the only serious resources for students.

When the Portland district was spending thousands of dollars a month on a human resources contractor who had retired from an already high-paying job, it was clearly a misuse of resources. Why not spend that money to keep kids safe? I hope that the district will realize the importance of what people like Officer Sheldon offer at our school. I’d much rather have a friendly face of order in the hallways. ♦

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