School safety: Can we do more?

Published: Friday, Dec. 21 2012 6:40 p.m. MST

Trump expects that when reports on the Sandy Hook shootings are complete, they will show that everything possible was done, short of having an armed guard at the door — something that few primary schools do, he said. School resource officers are more likely to be found in secondary schools, where their presence is meant to address the potential for student crime, along with school safety needs.

Increasing the number of officers stationed in elementary schools is something to consider for the future, Trump said. But other conversations might be more important.

"I don't think we need to toss out the playbook," Trump said. "We need more schools to implement the fundamentals that have been in the book all along. I see it all the time — schools where people are not stopped and checked, and crisis teams are not meeting regularly."

Investments in school security that swelled after the Columbine shootings have dwindled during the recession, Trump said. In 2011, the U.S. Department of Justice released a report that showed federal, state and local budget cuts "have had a profound effect on school safety and security in recent years, forcing administrators to reduce these staff and programs, restructure security departments, and develop alternative ways to maintain a high level of safety and security within their schools."

The report details the elimination of the Title IV state grant component of the federal Safe and Drug-Free schools program, effective July 1, 2010, that dismantled programs providing school safety and prevention efforts. Funding cuts to school security at state and local levels compound the loss of federal funds, the report said.

Wanting guarantees

School resource officers provide an extra layer of safety in schools, Trump said, but providing more of them requires re-prioritizing budget needs.

"In an ideal world, most parents want an armed officer at each building — or maybe one detailed to each of the kids," Trump said. "As a father, I would like a 100 percent guarantee that my kid is safe. I know that can't be provided — we need to stay rational."

As a mom, Brooks worries about sending her two school-age sons out her door in the morning, knowing the world outside is a scary place. She has arrived at a measure of peace, though. Her boys leave for school armed with kisses and prayers.

"You still have to live," she said. "I can't let things like this destroy my faith in the people that are doing good things in teaching my kids. I put my faith in the Lord when they are gone, and do what I can to protect them, but you can't protect them from everything. I'm grateful for the measures that are in place, so I can feel safe to send them to school."

EMAIL: cbaker@deseretnews.com

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