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Protecting children is worth any cost

Staff Report • Dec 20, 2012 at 8:45 AM

A few years ago, about the most a student could expect regarding security at his or her high school might be an overzealous hall monitor or a teacher with a passion for handing out detentions for running in the hallway. Obviously, times have changed.

Friday’s horrific shooting in Newtown, Conn., points to a very disturbing fact: Senseless violence can strike anywhere, even at an elementary school.

Some of our local schools are fortunate to have law enforcement officers on campus. These school resource officers are often the first and only line of defense when it comes to dealing with danger on campus. That was certainly the case in 2010 when Sullivan Central High School’s resource officer stood between the school’s principal and a man who entered the school waving a handgun. That same resource officer, Sullivan County Sheriff’s Deputy Carolyn Gudger, also helped the principal escape to safety before other responding deputies shot and killed 62-year-old Richard Cowan of Kingsport.

Time and time again, school resource officers have professionally handled potentially dangerous situations in local schools. Whether they are walking the hallways of the local high school or riding a county school bus, these resource officers are helping to keep our children safe. It’s often tempting during tough budget times for elected officials to consider cutting these positions. That would be a mistake.

In Unicoi County, Sheriff Mike Hensley is seeking financial assistance from the town of Erwin to place a school resource officer in Unicoi Elementary School.

“We absolutely have to take care of our children and grandchildren (who go) to school,” Hensley said. “My intention is to do whatever it takes to take care of those children.”

Which brings us to a question some have asked: How much should taxpayers be asked to shoulder for school safety?

Perhaps that is the wrong question. Maybe we should ask: How can we in good conscience refuse to pay whatever it takes to keep our students safe?

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