Kokomo Tribune; Kokomo, Indiana

Columns

March 28, 2014

MARK HEINIG: Guns in the school parking lot: a right or risk?

If Pence signs bill, schools could employ stricter security

(Continued)

If SB 229 becomes law, schools could be forced to impose much stricter security measures. I taught in one school out-of-state where security was a lot tighter than it usually is here. There was only one access point, and everyone was electronically screened under the supervision of a deputy sheriff. I felt like I was boarding an international flight instead of simply entering a school to teach there.

Nobody wants that much security, but we also don’t want to expose kids to unnecessary dangers. As a principal, I didn’t want to endanger my teachers and other staff members, either. I seldom met alone with parents or others, if they were likely to become upset. Whenever possible, I included a co-worker or postponed the meeting if one was not available. I encouraged my teachers to do that, too.

Most parents and other adults would never bring a gun to a meeting at school or to a school activity off campus. However, if any one of them loses his temper and happens to have a gun in his car, the situation may escalate beyond the school’s control. How can we identify that potentially angry person in time to prevent a tragedy?

Unfortunately, we can’t always do that. Sometimes our only reasonable option is to err on the side of caution and treat everyone as a possible threat. That adds a lot of stress to communication between parents, students and teachers. Stress can inhibit the development of trust. Often, the first step in helping troubled students is getting them to trust their teachers and parents.

Personally, I don’t own a gun and I don’t want one. Yet I respect the right of law-abiding adults with gun permits to possess guns and carry them. However, no one is entitled to do that when it could hurt somebody’s child. As the old saying goes, one guy’s right to swing his fist ends at the tip of the next guy’s nose!

Mark Heinig Jr. of Kokomo is a retired Indiana principal and teacher. Contact him at markjr1708@gmail.com.

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