The Edmond Sun

January 14, 2013

OUR VIEW: School safety remains paramount

The Edmond Sun

EDMOND — The horror visited upon Sandy Hook Elementary by a lone gunman has turned the national debate about gun rights and violence on its head. While many more people across the nation are now actually talking about the problem of violence within our society, the debate about guns, ownership rights and many other side issues have become hopelessly entangled in these highly charged and emotional issues.

Following the nation’s 2nd Amendment and allowing gun ownership is really a pretty straightforward issue. But as with most any other debate, it’s the details of implementing policy, law and justice within our society that becomes mired in vitriolic speech and never-ending filibusters in Congress and elsewhere.

Leaving gun rights and how to deal with them for another editorial, the issue of school safety is the more paramount problem for society to deal with at this moment. Many solutions have been thrown out there in editorials, blogs, talk shows and the social media universe. But what many of those individual solutions fail to recognize is that turning our schools into fortified prisons is not the answer to stopping the violence threatening their hallways.

As with any problem of this magnitude, we believe it will be multiple solutions enacted as larger policy that ultimately will help heal the hearts of parents, educators and students so wounded by the loss of kindergartners at Sandy Hook Elementary.

Taking a hard look at mental health in our society must be a top priority across the nation. Too many people, their children and grandchildren are not receiving the care or services they need to put them on a path toward a healthier existence. For too many years, mental health services have fallen to the budget cutting clippers in almost every state of the nation. Oklahoma, in particular, is guilty of throwing the problem of mental illness back into the faces of individual communities and telling them to find ways of dealing with the problems that ensue. While communities must continue to be a wellspring of care and solutions, these issues are larger than individuals and their communities.

Through public education, nonprofit charitable work and caring word of mouth, most people in America know the signs of heart attack and stroke and what to do about them. But how many people know the signs of mental crisis and what to do about them? Not very many and that leads to a national feeling of helplessness in how to solve these concerns.

It’s time to ask ourselves if we’re doing enough as a society and as individuals to help those who are in crisis and those who are suffering because they cannot afford the care they need.

Lt. Gov. Todd Lamb and his newly appointed Commission on School Security surely will look at the myriad suggestions of how to make our schools safer places. And we want them to do just that, but adding more bulletproof glass, more chainlink fencing, more LobbyGuard check-in systems, more security cameras and possibly even armed police officers can only do so much. This commission should look at all those options and more and at the same time, the state should look at a new mental health commission that can focus on solving some of these problems on the other side of the school yard fence.