Town hall forum focuses on school safety following Sandy Hook tragedy

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Fox59 aired a one hour, special event – Common Ground: Stopping School Violence – Thursday.

The town hall forum, held before a live audience at Fishers Junior High School, included a panel of school administrators, a police officer, mental health expert and a parent and student. They all talked about how schools can be safer, following the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary.

“This incident opened a door for communication,” said Kennedy Robinson, Hamilton Southeastern High School.

Robinson said she and many of her friends are now more open with their teachers.  She said more people need to speak up if they see something suspicious.

“You don’t know when a situation and a threat is real or fake. We should go to somebody every time and we don’t and I think that’s part of the problem,” said Robinson.

Since the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary, Hamilton Southeastern’s superintendent is re-assessing the physical layout of the district’s buildings and every security measure in place.

“We’ve decided to do an audit of all of our buildings by a professional firm to look at some things we may have overlooked, a new set of eyes,” said Dr. Brian Smith, Superintendent.

Dr. Smith believes the biggest threats are young adults with mental health issues.  Behavior psychologist, Dr. Greg Sipes, said attackers can often be identified before it’s too late.

“These kinds of acts are usually performed by individuals who are hopeless.  If your teenagers, the older kids, know someone who seems to have lost hope, that’s a time they are dangerous to themselves and others,” said Sipes.

But if the worst case scenario does happen, teachers should know what they would do. Kyle Luck has a plan for his physical education students.

“You do think about what you would do.  Our doors as a practice are always locked, they are open, the first thing you do is close the doors.  Then you let your instincts take over,” said Luck.

“If there was a firearm you hear close by, you want to get (students) to our storage closet where the equipment is.  There’s also two exits so if it’s in the distance, you can get them out of there.”

Luck said he does not think arming teachers is the answer.

Lieutenant Michael Johnson, who is a school resource officer, said armed officers in schools are the best answer, as long as they build relationships with the students.

“I had a 7th grade student come up to me, identify me, told me my presence made her feel safe.  That was a big deal for a young girl to say that,” said Johnson.

As scary as the drills look, Johnson said they should be done to reassure the students they are safe.

“In North America, in the last 50 years, 0 kids have died in a fire at school, but yet we have a fire drill every month.  We have to involve kids in their safety but at the same time make sure we are communicating they are very safe when they go to school.”

The town hall forum was just the start of this important conversation. We hope you will continue the conversation in your school district.  And, if you want to talk about the discussion, we have a place for you to chime in on the Fox59 Facebook page, or, tweet using the hashtag #fox59townhall.

4 comments

  • Michael Powell

    Good morning;
    I'm curious at to why there were no minorities on the panel? Were there no available to be a part of this important topic that affects ALL children.

  • John Browning

    Locked gl@ss doors and unarmed receptionists will never be able to stop a m@ss murderer.

    Officers in schools is a step in the right direction, but it is expensive and difficult for smaller districts to do.

    The most cost effective measure is to allow teachers to get training and have access to a firearm at school (whether its on their body or in a fast action safe in the room). Police officers actually have very little firearms training in comparison to many regular people who take carrying a firearm seriously. Most of an officers training is on things that teachers don't need to know. Teachers don't have powers of arrest, they would merely be exercising their fundamental right to self defense. All they need to know is how to safely and effectively deploy a firearm in self defense. They don't need to be trained how to attempt to arrest someone, merely on how to eliminate an immediate threat.

    The most common argument I have heard against this is people don't think their children will "feel safe" with guns around and they think a student will be able to take a gun away from a teacher. Students wouldn't KNOW the teacher has a gun and its hard to take a gun away from someone when you don't know they have it. Small semi-auto pistols can be deeply concealed in a huge number of ways. One particularly good way for a teacher would be to use a "holster shirt". These are compression shirts worn under your clothing with a deep pocket under the arm to holster your pistol. It would be nearly impossible for a student to get their hands under the teachers clothing and fish out a pistol that is inside one of the pockets. It would also be possible to keep them in a fast action safe in the cl@ssroom. Last, police carry their pistols right out in the open. When was the last time you heard about a student stealing a gun from one of them? Taking a gun away from someone is NOT easy.

  • John Browning

    Fox59, you really need to fix your filters on here. There are a lot of words in the English language that contain the letters a-s-s in them.

    M@ssachusetts, m@ss, cl@ss, b@ss, br@ss, @ssistant, the list goes on and on and on. Its really a pain for posters to continually have to figure out what in their post is setting off your ridiculously sensitive filters. And lets face it, the word you are trying to prevent being used isn't that bad. Heck they say it on prime time broadcast television!

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