One of the very engaged attendees at Thursday's Safe Schools Partnership meeting hosted by Rockwood School District in Eureka was Don Senti, executive director of the Cooperating School Districts (CSD). He said superintendents who are CSD members are opposed to arming school staffers to provide security for school children.
But could bond issues or new taxes designated to take care of new safety measures be in the future?
"Providing security for our most precious resource should be in the capable hands of those professionals who are trained in the use of fire arms, and more importantly, who know when to use them," Senti said.
"Therefore, we feel that neither volunteers or armed educators are an appropriate solution to this national problem, which could affect any of us."
CSD of Greater St. Louis is a nonprofit education consortium that serves teachers, administrators, support staff and school board members in 61 public school districts in eight Missouri counties and two Illinois counties. CSD managers provide member school districts with services, resources and leadership to achieve educational excellence.
Senti said CSD members recommend increasing the number of armed, certified, law enforcement professionals within as many schools as possible, assuming those actions receive school board approvals.
"We also support an increase in training in how to handle crisis situations," he said.
He said they are aware that increasing armed law enforcers will not, and have not prevented, all school shootings. "However, we do not accept that fact as a reason to simply maintain the status quo."
Admitting that increased security is costly, Senti said CSD members believe local, state and national governmental agencies need to allocate new, additional money for this purpose. "What could be a higher priority?"
Senti said CSD members believe funding should go to the state and local public safety departments, who, in partnership with local schools and with the approval of local school boards, would allocate those funds as they deem necessary for their local situation.
"Additional school security to a potential state bond issue, aggressively seeking potential federal funding, or even asking local or state voters for a tax increase specifically for school security should be seriously considered," said Senti.
He said CSD members also believe improvements in mental health systems are even more important than added security. "Ideally, improvements in how we deal with mental health issues would eventually decrease school shootings. Preventative mental health programs need to be increased," he said.
CSD members also suggest improving the lines of communications among law enforcement, education and mental health communities about individuals with mental health challenges.
"We believe this problem, while difficult, must be addressed. The status quo is unacceptable," he said.