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Forum On Guns In Schools Provides No Easy Answers



There were long moments of silence punctuated by a few heartfelt comments during a public forum on “School Safety And Guns” at the Archbold Knights of Columbus Hall, Monday night, March 4.

The event was co-sponsored by Shalom Counseling & Mediation Center and the Defiance College Criminal Justice Society.

Of the approximately 50 persons who attended, one man spoke in favor of arming teachers in schools. A second was against guns in classrooms, but was in favor of armed teachers patrolling hallways when not teaching.

Others who spoke were against guns in schools, including a couple of teachers who were not interested in carrying guns.

Topics veered off guns in schools to bullying, children living in bad economic and family conditions, and problems with the mental health system.

Evil

Barbara Bowman, Archbold, said with four children in Archbold schools, she always felt they were safe.

She urged the need for compassion in schools, where teachers provide an environment in which problems can be identified and addressed.

Smaller schools can do that, heading off problems before they become serious.

But Thomas Born, Defi- ance, a former Defiance High School teacher, said those who are intent on doing evil “will still do it. No amount of compassion can change their minds.

“We have a responsibility to defend ourselves, to do more than cower in a corner, and you cannot rely on other people to defend you.

“One armed teacher is not enough,” adding that believing teachers cannot carry guns responsibly is ridiculous.

Emagene Stuckey, a thirdgrade teacher at Hilltop Elementary School, said bullying is a major problem.

In her district, there is an anti-bullying program where students “are given the power to stop bullying.”

Alan Rutter, executive director of Shalom, said an anti-bullying program in Williams County addresses how schools could become “stronger communities of kindness,” and that the student peer program had created healthier communities of support and encouragement.

Charles Nafziger, a teacher at Pettisville High School, said part of the problem is violence in television, movies, and video games.

Born said, “The problem is you can’t control that. You know the Internet is full of… everything, and kids will have access. Boys will be boys.

“Bullying is not a good thing. Any antisocial behavior is not a good thing. But you can never eradicate it completely.”

Barb Short, Archbold, who identified herself as a grandmother, said she was saddened that her grandchild has to live “in this type of era, where they have to go to school knowing their teacher may have a gun.”

She also asked if police officers are in schools, how would youngsters feel knowing there were police there all day.

Tracey Zuver, chief deputy of the Fulton County Sheriff Department, said officers in schools are there to be friends and resources to students.

Students should know they can come to police offi- cers with anything.

“The idea is the police officer is going there to be a friend, not a security guard,” Zuver said.

Fear

Carol Ulrich, Archbold, said she was concerned children are growing up in a climate of fear, and asked how to address the issues without fear.

One man said children are not being taught what real guns can do. In video games, characters who are shot often get up and come at the game player again.

Donna Smith, formerly of Archbold, said she worked in mental health in Cleveland. In the 1960s, state hospitals were emptied out because of abuse, she said.

But now, health insurance corporations place so many restrictions on mental health coverage, that children who need help can’t get it.

School

Aaron Rex, Archbold superintendent, said a lockdown drill had just been completed at Archbold, and discussed possible changes in the lockdown procedure.

Royal Short, AHS principal, said administrators were concerned about how realistic to make the drill.

Rutter closed the meeting by pointing out that based on statistics, youth suicide is a far bigger problem than school shootings.–David Pugh



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