RACINE — Safety in schools is not just on the minds of administrators, staff and parents, but students as well, something that was evident on Monday evening at the Southern Local Board of Education meeting.
Seniors Jonah Hoback, David Shaver and Connor Thomas addressed the board at the start of the meeting regarding the safety of students in the district.
Hoback and Shaver are currently in the school’s current world affairs class, while Thomas is the student council president.
Hoback explained that they are tired of seeing school shootings happen.
Of roughly 200 students in Southern High School, Hoback obtained 145 signatures on a petition asking that teachers undergo training for firearms.
While there is a school resource officer, Hoback said the officer could be anywhere in the building, which may or may not be the location of a possible incident.
Overall, Hoback stated that “gun-free zones” are the target of 98 percent of shootings. Simply the presence of armed staff members could serve as a deterrent.
Thomas echoed that statement, referencing the country of Switzerland which is one of the least gun violent in the world. In the country homes have guns which may be a deterrent of gun violence.
Reflecting on what the school day is like for students, Thomas stated that there is not a day someone doesn’t make a joke about being the next place for a school shootings, except that they are not joking, but using it as a defense mechanism with the stress regarding being a potential target.
“The most precious thing is children, but they are also the most vulnerable,” said the 18-year-old Thomas. He noted that he worries more for the elementary students who do not understand and may not know what to do in a shooting situation.
While the idea of arming teachers and staff has been discussed widely since the recent shooting in Parkland, Florida, Thomas noted that there may be some teachers and staff who do not want to carry a weapon or should not.
It is not a good idea for a kindergarten teacher to have a gun in the classroom, but maybe the janitor or principal or another individual, said Thomas.
Other suggestions of potential ways to improve safety were metal detectors and bullet proof glass.
“We should have more protection. I will leave the how up to you,” said Thomas, noting that the students simply wanted to bring their opinions to the board for consideration.
Board President Denny Evans told the students that Supt. Tony Deem is working on the safety concerns and would be meeting with other superintendents and Sheriff Keith Wood to help formulate a plan.
“We appreciate you guys. We never thought about such things in school,” Evans told the students.
Thomas added that he did not like the idea of basing a response off of the emotion of a school shooting, but that the statistics scare you.
Board member Richie Wamsley thanked the students for speaking up on the matter and acknowledged that the things the students go through today are much different then they were when he and his fellow board members were in school.
Evans and Deem both emphasized the importance of “if you see something, say something.”
Evans concluding by saying that there is going to be an answer come from the discussions taking place, but that there is the hope that it is never needed.
In mentioning the possibility of arming teachers and staff, Hoback stated that a free conceal carry class is going to be offered in April for educators.
Local conceal carry weapon class instructor Dana Aldridge is offering the class to any educators in Meigs County. While the class would not allow for the teacher to carry a gun in the school, it would allow for them to have the knowledge should that become the case in the future or to protect themselves in places where they would be permitted to carry a gun.
The class will be held on April 21 at the Pomeroy Gun Club. If interested call Dana at 740-667-6697.
Sarah Hawley is the managing editor of The Daily Sentinel.