On Dec. 14, 2012, Adam Lanza walked into Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., and shot and killed 26 innocent people. This was the second deadliest school shooting in U.S. history.
The question becomes: Could something like this happen in Harrisonville? I think it is not unrealistic that the Sandy Hook tragedy could be repeated in our city, considering the fact that as of two years ago, we had a threat of an intruder.
During the school day, Officers Doug Rose and Steve Nichols, the school district’s only two school resource officers (SROs), are responsible for 40 percent of Harrisonville’s population. Why are two officers responsible for that many people during the five-day week? They should not, by any means, be responsible for 40 percent of Harrisonville’s population.
We do not need to be asking if a school shooting is a possibility anymore. It is. Anything can happen and people are willing to take their anger out on innocent people. According to CNN, in the 18 months after Sandy Hook there were 74 school shootings in the U.S. Obviously it could happen anywhere, at any time. But when it does happen, let’s be prepared.
The lives of children are extremely important. If I were a mom, I would be infuriated that my kids from the ages of 5 to 11 were receiving such scant protection. The two officers do such a wonderful job, but there is no absolute way you can put the weight of 40 percent of Harrisonville’s population on two officers’ shoulders.
According to Rose, a shooter has only has three to five minutes to “take out” or kill as many victims as he can. To the shooter, it is like a video game. I do not want this to be a slap in the face to officers, but if a shooter is going in there with that mindset, how do they protect the unprotected kids? Easy answer: They cannot.
So let me ask you, as a citizen of Harrisonville: Are the children of this city just a gamble to you? Because to me, I would risk my life every day to protect my little brother who attends McEowen from harm.
I do not understand why we cannot add another person in uniform to help protect these kids. According to Rose, it would cost the school district an estimated $80,000 to $100,000 a year. That price would include the SRO’s accessories, insurance, pay, vehicle and training. I think that is pretty cheap when the cost of not doing so could end up being a child’s life.
According to Rose, he protects around 910 students at the high school, anywhere from 500 to 600 students at the Cass Career Center, 600 students at the elementary school, 18 to 24 students at the alternative school and 150 staff members. That is not including bus drivers and their safety riders. Add the numbers. Officer Rose protects 2,284 people Monday through Friday. One person protecting 2,284 people at the least, folks? This is an issue.
“Officer Nichols takes care of the middle school, pre-K and kindergarten, the administrative building and McEowen,” Rose said. “With a third officer between the grades one through five, that means Officer Nichols would have six through eight and I would take care of ninth through twelfth. With this I think you will get positive community feedback. Nothing is more precious than our kids.”
There are other advantages to having a third SRO, although there are too many pluses to be counted. It could be used as a D.A.R.E. (Drug Abuse Resistance Education) tool within the elementary schools. Kindergarten, third- and fifth-grade students go through a D.A.R.E. program. It could also be used as a trust factor. You get an officer around children, and that officer can gain the kids’ trust. Then we, citizens of Harrisonville, have teenagers who trust the police instead of thinking that they are deficient and “out to get them.”
Let me leave you with a question to think about: Is it worth risking the life of your brother or sister, son or daughter, niece or nephew, just because someone had a bad day and wants to take it out on innocent people? That is not a risk I want to take. So let’s find room in the budget to add another SRO to the school district so we can protect these kids. If we can spend $1 million on computers for high school students, then surely we can spend $100,000 for a third SRO.