Governor Blunt understands why some parents are concerned about school safety after three recent incidents in Missouri..But he says they’re safe and he has people working to keep them safe. Missouri has about 520 school districts. About 517 of them had no trouble in recent days. But incidents in Joplin, Noel and Warrenton within the last 10 days or so have led to formation of a special task force of public safety and school boards officials who will make some recommendations about school safety next Thursday. Governor Blunt says the incidents indicate the three incidents cnanot be treated as isolated events. He calls those events a “massive societal problem.” Blunt has formed a special task force that will have an internet teleconference with school and public safety officials from throughout the state Thursday. They’ll review the task force’s suggestions and make additional recommendations that can be circulated statewide. Blunt also is adding an educator to each of the regional homeland security commission that have been established during the last year.
Three school incidents in the past week….Noel, where a pistol was found in a locker; Warrenton where a student was arrested after reportedly saying he wanted to turn his school into another Columbine; Joplin, where a student fired a shot into a school ceiling… Governor Blunt thinks some people took something he said in Joplin earlier this week and ran with it—wrongly. He does not favor arming teachers. But he says the general topic is worth talking about…and maybe some weapons should be available in schools to some teachers properly trained to use them. Governor Blunt says he does NOT favor arming all teachers. But he says the idea of having weapons accessible to properly-trained teachers is worth talking about. He says those who think guns lead to a violent society will not agree with him but those who think access to weapons can be part of a solution to a violent situation created by society would more readily be willing to discuss the matter. Blunt says Missour’s schools are safe, and parents can send their children to school confident the children are going into a safe environment. Missouri has about 520 school districts….meaning about 517 districts have NOT had gun problems in the last week.
Identification badges for high school students are showing up in our urban schools and could be spreading to smaller districts, in efforts to keep high school buildings safe. Executive director Jim King with the state association of secondary school principals says technology is letting schools create the badges quickly and have pictures available for other school purposes, too. King says ID badges are one way school administrators are able to control who comes into school buildings, and keep track of them when they’re inside.
Several things are considered reasons for the drop in the number of students expelled for taking guns to Missouri’s schools. The number is down about 40% in the last three years. Federal programs coordinator Dee Beck with the state education department says reporting of incidents has improved. And, she says, more people are taking the issue more clearly. 27 of the 102 students expelled in the last school year were elementary school students. 58 were senior high school students. The rest were junior high or middle school students.
A half dozen children have been taken off a Columbia school bus and taken to the county juvenile office after a fight erupted on the bus. The bus driver had stopped the bus and called police when the fights broke out. The students on the bus are three to ten years old. Police say some of the students had to be handcuffed because they kicked and fought with deputies.
Stopping school violence before it happens was the purpose of a two-day conference in Jefferson City. It was attended by dozens of students from about 50 Missouri high schools. Among those attending was Tanya Ventrano of Sarcoxie in southwest Missouri. She says this meeting will help her and others to deal with potentially violent situations that might arise. The students will be working with school officials and community leaders to implement their “STOP the Violence” programs.
School officials and juvenile officers in Knob Noster say they’ve turned up a possible murder plot. Two boys, each 12, have been taken intojuvenile custody. The police chief says one of the boys had a knife when hewas picked up before classes. Knob Knoster school superintendent Larry Ficken says the school started investigating after a student who had heard rumors about the situation notified the school. Ficken says the district immediately reported the rumors to police for investigation.
Republican candidate for governor Jim Talent is proposing a $7 million dollar expansion in the state’s alternative schools program. Talent unveiled his program during a series of news conferences around the state. It’s called Children Learning at Safe Schools, or CLASS. It would send students serving longer suspensions to alternative classes, instead of letting them stay at home. While suspended, they would participate in smaller class settings and meet with counselors. He is modeling his idea on what he calls a successful program in Blue Springs.
The state education department hopes a new system of background checks will make Missouri’s school classrooms safer. New regulations require people seeking their first teaching certificates to go through criminal background checks. Acting education commissioner Kent King says applicants don’t have to be perfect. The state does have some flexibility in deciding whether to give them their first teaching certificate. And King says it’s not necessary whenever teachers change jobs, just when they want to enter the classroom for the first time.
Missouri’s Safe Schools Act gets an upgrade this year. A bill going into effect this month updates the 1996 law. Rusty Rosenkoetter with the state Department of Elementary and Secondary Education says it expands safe school zones to parking lots and extracurricular activities. It also calls for stricter enforcement of threats and makes it against the law for angry parents or others to board school busses. The law may also improve communication between police and schools.