My heart was broken Friday when I heard the news of the killing of 20 little children and six adults in the beautiful New England town of Newtown, Conn.
The tears flowed again Saturday when I learned that all of the children had been shot multiple times with an assault rifle. Tears came again Sunday when dozens of children the age of the shooting victims filled the altar at my church for the regular children’s sermon.Just think – these were 6- and 7-year-old little boys and girls and their teachers and administrators who tried to save them, all executed at the hands of a crazy 20-year-old man who took weapons from his mother’s home, killed her, and then went on a rampage at the school.
My mind raced back several years to when I participated in a Junior Achievement program in a kindergarten class at Carson Elementary School in Decatur. There’s no doubt in my mind that Tiana Lockett, my supervising teacher, would have done exactly what those teachers at Sandy Hook Elementary did to protect those children.
It is a pipe dream to think that we will ever have meaningful legislation to limit the purchase of assault rifles in America. The shooter used the assault rifle to kill his victims. He also carried two pistols as he shot his way into the school.
That leaves the question, how do we protect the innocent lives in our classrooms? I know my friend Dennis McCreary, head of building programs in the Northwest school district, spends every moment designing classrooms and school entrances that meet every safety precaution.
Perhaps there needs to be a “safe room” in every classroom. Many elementary school classrooms have a small bathroom – they need to be fortified with concrete tile walls and heavy steel doors to provide a safe haven if the school is under attack.
All of these precautions, including mandatory metal detectors in every school, are expensive and the state of Texas is so tight-fisted with money for our schools that such devices are beyond the financial means of most districts. Yet we keep on electing the same people to state offices who don’t give a damn about public schools of Texas.
Decatur police and firefighters have spent hours in recent weeks because some nitwit scrawled bomb threats in the bathrooms at Decatur High School. Kids were out of class, some of them shivering in freezing cold. The school district has posted a $5,000 reward, and Decatur Police Chief Rex Hoskins is obviously fed up with the situation, telling a Messenger reporter, “This is getting old.”
I’m sure that holds true for Superintendent Rod Townsend and Principal Jason Cochran. Pity the kids who will face Rex, Rod and Jason when they are found. Those who did it should be expelled from school for the remainder of the year. No so-called “alternative” classes, just expulsion. Let the parents deal with them for a few months.
With the tragedy in Newtown fresh on our minds, there is no need to put up with senseless pranks like bomb scares. But an abundance of caution is required so police officers, firefighters and school administrators must be very careful to make sure every student is safe regardless of the validity of the call.
The Newtown massacre was made even sadder Sunday, when a mass at St. Rose of Lima Catholic Church had to be interrupted because of a threatening phone call. Five hundred grieving worshipers were ushered out into a cold New England morning because of the threat.
Ten of the 20 children killed were members of that Parish and had recently completed catechism classes and were preparing for their first communion. Eight of their funerals are being held at the church this week.
Like many of you, I will be riveted to the news coverage of this tragic story for weeks to come. We must offer our prayers to the families of the children and adults who are caught up in this horrible tragedy during what is supposed to be a season of anticipation and joy.
Christmas will never be the same for any of them.
Roy Eaton is publisher of the Wise County Messenger.