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Rosenthal: Lawmakers must address school safety

When I think back to my high school days in the late 1960s, I remember feeling safe.

But, I do remember some insecurity when walking in the hallways. This feeling came from my transfer from a school where there were 30 students in the freshman class (Model Lab) to another school (GRC) with 325 in the class. However, I don’t remember being afraid, just overwhelmed by the sheer numbers.

During that time, the only weapons I remember seeing were pocket knives. I think they were allowed in schools if not taken out of clothing. Sure there were fights, but they were handled quickly and usually did not occur in the classroom.

Why was it like that? I think one factor was because the principal was so strict. He was quick to punish those who misbehaved and made sure the teachers sent them to him when there was a problem. In short, we were scared of him and believed what he said. Of course, the parents also trusted him and went along with the prescribed punishment.

My experience contrasts significantly with today’s schools. Teachers must go through many steps before students are sent to principals. Many of the same students are in the office multiple times. Obviously, the punishment does not stop the misbehavior.

Why do different times produce different results? Well, many of the parents now dispute the punishment. Additionally, teachers find their options limited.

When I started teaching, I saw the same picture I saw when I was in school. The students I taught were similar as they behaved in class but engaged in dangerous activities when they were not in school. Several spent weekends in jail for selling drugs. They came to school, probably court ordered, and most did their work. What went on outside the school was kept separate and so was the behavior.

Today it seems the two environments have merged and the danger on the outside is coming into schools making them unsafe. The threat is more prominent with the addition of firearms.

Many options are being discussed in regards to firearms. Should there be more resource officers or teachers voluntarily carrying? My own opinion as an educator is that guns are not appropriate for teachers who are with students in the classroom. The accidental incidents could be problematic. Plus, without any guidelines to control who and what can be used in schools, teachers could be put in legal jeopardy.

I would not choose to carry or have a gun in my classroom. I am one of those who has never owned one, so I would never have one in my home or at my job.

Some will disagree, but I think there needs to be a change in policies and laws, both state and federal, before guns go into schools. I know students want to change and they have sound reasoning. They are calling on state and federal officials to address their concerns.

What have our legislators done to change or add gun policies? Nothing that I can see.

The NRA is a major funding contributor to both parties, and so that third party gets a voice along with the president who is now agreeing with both sides and cutting back his beliefs as time goes on.

So, where are the safety measures that were promised to the young people after the last school shooting? In a blue ribbon committee that will study and make recommendations and you know the rest of it.

As I said, the school and the outside influences have merged so we must move forward with new ideas that will answer the safety issues upon us and being pushed forward by students.

However, the people who make changes in our laws are not engaged in this movement, and without them, there will be very little happening regarding safety in schools.

Pat Rosenthal is a former teacher and administrator for Clark County Public Schools.