In the aftermath of the tragic shooting at a Connecticut elementary school last December when 20 children and six adults were shot to death, school officials and law enforcement officials in every state have been exploring options to prevent such a horrific event from being repeated in their jurisdictions.
Here in West Virginia, U. S. Attorney Booth Goodwin, during a state educators’ conference in Charleston last week, presented his own recommendations for making this state’s schools safer. These include installing locked single-entry points that allow school officials to see potential visitors, installation of emergency buttons that broadcast a school-wide alarm and call police and the placement of more police officers, retired officers and veterans in schools.
Goodwin organized a so-called “Summit on West Virginia Safe Schools” in February, just two months after the tragic event at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown. He said the tragic event there was a “national tragedy” and “an urgent call for action on the issue of school safety.”
The statistics on the problem of school shootings indicate that three-fourths of the public school shootings in this nation can be traced back to incidents of bullying and harassment. So Goodwin’s agenda calls for implementing what he describes as “anti-bullying strategies.”
Another critical aspect of Goodwin’s plan is a new video designed to educate young people about the potential problems and dangers associated with prescription drug abuse.
And he also believes it would be helpful to enlist the help of more law enforcement officers along with retired police officers and veterans in a Prevention Resource Officers Corps who would be placed in schools as “prevention resource officers.”
He also suggests that state government, presumably the State Department of Education, develop a statewide program to identify potentially violent students early and intervene to prevent problems later.
One of the recommendations that may cause some parental concerns is the proposal to “conduct an active shooter drill at least once a year,” with the participation of law enforcement officials. He notes that there hasn’t been a child killed by a fire in a school in 50 years but “we still do drills. We need to have that same vigor with school violence.”
Goodwin’s proposal also includes the installation of emergency buttons and shatter-resistant materials on glass windows and door panels. And possibly the most difficult step would be the development of a statewide program to identify the potentially violent students in the public schools.
Obviously there is no guarantee that whatever steps are taken to make public schools safer for students and teachers will prevent all incidents of potential violence. But these efforts clearly will greatly lessen the likelihood of another Newtown.
Meanwhile, federal job furloughs are scheduled for 1,692 civilian employees in West Virginia working in agencies under the U. S. Department of Defense this summer as part of an 11-week furlough program. These employees will lose about $5.6 million in income as a result of this decision.
Technicians with the West Virginia Air National Guard and Army National Guard — a total of 946 members of the Guard’s nearly 2,500-member state work force — account for more than half the state residents that will be taking these furloughs. It’s all caused by the $85 billion in automatic federal spending cuts approved by Congress.
Nationwide, the U. S. Department of Defense will begin furloughs for 652,000 of its 893,000 civilian employees on July 8. These workers will each be furloughed for 11 days between July and September, averaging about one day a week for most.
The relatively small number of West Virginia civilian workers involved includes 186 workers at the 130th Airlift Wing in Charleston; 384 with the 67th Airlift Wing in Martinsburg; and 376 Army National Guard members working at locations across the state.