A Project for Better Journalism chapter

A third SRO is necessary

On December 14, 2012, Adam Lanza walked into an elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut, and shot and killed 26 innocent people. Lanza had no record of violence and was an A student. Lanza went to Sandy Hook Elementary School with one thing in mind: to kill. That is exactly what he did. He managed to kill 20 first graders, 12 girls and six boys. This was the second deadliest school shooting in U.S. history.

The question becomes: Could something like this happen in Harrisonville? I think it is not unrealistic that the Sandy Hook tragedy could be repeated in Harrisonville, considering the fact that as of two years ago we had a threat of an intruder. During the school day, Officers Rose and Nichols, the school district’s only two school resource officers (SROs), are responsible for 40 percent of Harrisonville’s population. Why are two officers responsible for that many people during the five-day week? They should not, by any means, be responsible for, let me repeat, 40 percent of Harrisonville’s population. Two people. 40 percent. Let that sink in.

“Right now our current school district has two officers in uniform,” said Rose. “I take care of the high school, CCC, elementary school and the alternative school. Officer Nichols takes care of the middle school, pre-K and kindergarten, the administrative building and McEowen. With a third officer between the grades one through five, that means Officer Nichols would have six through eight and I would take care of ninth through twelfth. With this I think you will get positive community feedback. Nothing is more precious than our kids.”

Another plus to having a third SRO, although there are too many pluses to be counted, it could be used as a D.A.R.E. tool within the elementary schools. Kindergarten, third and fifth grade students go through a D.A.R.E. program. How handy dandy would it be to just have an officer already there? It could also be used as a trust factor. You get an officer around children, they gain that officer’s trust. Then we, citizens of Harrisonville, have teenagers who trust the police instead of thinking that they are deficient.

If you do not think a shooting can happen in Harrisonville, you are bursting with naivety. Do you think the citizens of Newtown, Connecticut, thought it could happen there? Probably not. If anyone knew that a massacre was going to happen they would have had that school swarming with police officers. We cannot take threats to schools light heartedly. So please, stop saying to yourself that it will not happen here.

We do not need to be asking if this is a possibility anymore. It is. Anything can happen and people are willing to take their anger out on innocent people. According to CNN, in the 18 months after Sandy Hook there were 74 school shootings in the US. Obviously it could happen anywhere, at any time. But when it does happen, let’s be prepared.

The lives of children are extremely important, to not only me but also the parents of those kids. If I were a mom, I would be infuriated that no one was protecting my kids from the age of five to 11. No, let me reword that. I am frustrated that, yes again, NO ONE is protecting these kids. There is no absolute way you can put the weight of 40 percent of Harrisonville’s population on two officers’ shoulders. Not only is that unfair, it also is extremely moronic.

So let me ask you: What are we actually doing to protect the children of Harrisonville while they are at school? I am not speaking in a high school or even a  middle school setting. This is all aimed towards elementary schools. The second deadliest shooting was at an elementary school where only first graders died. What are we doing to protect these kids from the terribly troubled people of this society? Oh, that is right. Absolutely nothing.

According to Rose. a shooter has only has three to five minutes to “take out” or kill as many victims as he can. To them it is like a video game. I do not want this to be a slap in the face to officers, but if that man is going in there with that mind set, how do they protect the unprotected kids? Easy answer: They cannot.

So let me ask you, as a citizen of Harrisonville, are the children of this city just a gamble to you? Because to me, I would risk my life every day to protect my little brother who attends HES from the harm another human being can do.

“It comes down to whether or not people can sacrifice themselves,” said Rose. “Tragic or honorable death? No one wants to die. I would fight back. At the end of the day we teach those kids to listen to their teachers. If you think you can fight, fight. If you can’t, run. If they practice ALICE and understand it, they can do it. The teacher just needs to control those kids the best way they can. Their best bet is to run, run, run.”

These little kids cannot be expected to fight off a shooter. Let’s think about it: a 150-pound man with a gun versus a 70-pound 8 year old? Hmm, let’s think. Does that make sense to anyone? Because I am baffled.

“Their minds are programed for the three f’s: flight, fight or freeze,” said Rose. “These little kids are not designed to defend themselves. We have always taught them to run. When you get down to first, second grade, you have more female teachers and the kids can’t defend themselves. Nothing is wrong with female teachers, but when you get a 200-pound man can a 120-pound female teacher and little kids fight him off?”

New teachers are hired every year to replace those who decided to leave the school district. I do not understand why we cannot add another person in uniform to help protect these kids. According to Rose, it would cost the school district an estimated $80,000 to $100,000 a year. That price would include the SRO’s accessories, insurance, pay, vehicle and training. I think that is pretty cheap when the cost could end up being a child’s life. Would we rather say, “We are prepared and have an officer in place to protect these kids,” or, “We were not prepared and we lost the lives of 10 first graders. We are greatly sorry to the families who lost these kids.” I know it sounds morbid to think about it, but this issue needs some pushing. This is a real problem.

According to Rose, he approximately protects 910 students at the high school, anywhere from 500 to 600 students at the CCC, 600 students at the elementary school, 18-24 students at the alternative school and 150 staff members. That is not including bus drivers and their safety riders. That is pretty ridiculous. Add the numbers. Officer Rose protects 2,284 people Monday through Friday. What are we doing? One person protecting 2,284 people at the least, folks. Come on. I cannot be the only one who sees how this is an issue.

At the least, please, take our SRO to the elementary schools. We, as high schoolers, are young adults and we understand ALICE. We can protect ourselves; they cannot. I do not want to say that we do not need Rose. I am just suggesting that if anything were to happen and we lost the lives of children it would be horrific. If we had a shooter at the high school, we would have the chance to defend ourselves. These kids would not. So I am going to leave you with a question to think about: Is it worth risking the life of your brother or sister, son or daughter, niece or nephew, just because someone had a bad day and wants to take it out on innocent people? That is not a risk I want to take. So let’s find room in the budget to add another SRO to the school district so we can protect these kids. If we can spend $1 million on computers, then surely we can spend $100,000 for a third SRO.