By JENNIFER ELLEDGE
Because of school shootings like the one in Jonesboro, Ark., Americans wake up every day with the realization that their children’s schools are not immune from violent and horrific acts carried out by other children.
The seventh goal of the National Education Board, according to the National Center for Education Statistics Web site at nces.ed.gov/pubs98/violence, is that by the year 2000, all schools in America will offer a disciplined environment conducive to learning. Schools should also be free of drugs, violence and the unauthorized presence of firearms and alcohol.
“Personally I feel this goal is unrealistic, but you need to set high goals,” said James Burrell, director of the Inner City and Urban Teacher Program for BYU and Salt Lake City. “If you don’t set high goals then you have nothing to hope for.”
Indianapolis has become a pilot school district for precautionary safety methods, including the use of metal detectors.
Other school districts are increasing safety budgets hoping that these measures will help to solve some of the problems, according to the Massachusetts Department of Education Web site at info.doe.mass.edu/doedocs/news.
Burrell said, because of the reality of today’s society, metal detectors will be a real part of the future of schools.
“Extreme fear will lead to extreme measures,” he said. “Because of this I feel metal detectors will become status quo. While we hope that programs will change hearts, we also end up putting metal detectors in buildings just in case someone doesn’t get the message.”
According to a survey conducted by the National Center for Education Statistics of public school principles for the 1996-97 school year, there were 11,000 incidents of physical attacks in which weapons were used and about 190,000 physical attacks not using weapons.
“The fear and uncertainty of whether or not a community will become a victim of violent crime will be the deciding factor for relatively safe communities to take action,” Burrell said.
Michael Robinson, director of media affairs for the Alpine School District, said, “We’re not completely immune from the problems that the nation is facing regarding violence in schools. In Utah, we have not experienced violence to the same extent as other school ditricts, but we are keenly aware of the need to implement strategies to alleviate problems as they arise.”
Spanish Fork High School Principal Bob Wadley said youth need to feel safe.
“Kids need to feel like they are being educated in a safe and comfortable environment,” he said. “Education should be their number one goal, not whether their physical safety is at risk.”
Wadley does not see that the implementation of metal detectors will become necessary in Spanish Fork and other parts of Utah.
“The safety of our students is our main concern,” Wadley said. “If it came to the point where we needed to install metal detectors, then we would. I hope and feel that it will not reach this point.”
Burrell believes that because of the reality of violent crime, there isn’t a community in America that hasn’t felt what has been going on in our schools.
“It no longer is a black or white issue. Violence crosses all color and race boundaries. This is something that all schools and communities will have to deal with one way or another,” Burrell said.