Time to heed words of advice

We live in a scary world, and the adage “Better safe than sorry” has meanings it never had in the past.

That is one message we can take away from our story last week about two Souhegan High School resource officers asking the school board to add greater measures to ensure the safety of students and staff at what has always been an open campus facility.

Doors have to be locked, and, “Internal cameras have to be installed,” Amherst Officer Michael Knox said. “This is a tremendous life-safety issue.”

He and Officer John Smith cited research from the Department of Homeland Security and other safety agencies pointing to the need for beefed-up safety measures.

The school board is discussing the officers’ recommendations, and the school’s Community Council plans to form a security committee to survey the school’s population and look at the security measures taken by other schools.

We admire Souhegan’s philosophy, steeped in the concept of mutual trust among students and adults. When Souhegan opened 25 years ago, though, we lived in a much different world, a world before the gunning down of schoolchildren and teachers in Connecticut and before the Pulse nightclub shootings.

There have been 220 shootings on school campuses in the U.S. since 20 children and six adults were killed at Sandy Hook Elementary school in 2012, according to the advocacy group Everytown for Gun Safety.

And let’s not forget that Souhegan is a workplace as well as a school. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, from 2006-10, an average of 551 workers per year were killed as a result of work-related homicides.

Today, no matter where we go or what we do, we can’t assume safety. Today, everybody has to have “cops’ eyes” – i.e., we have to be constantly looking around, even when we’re walking down a quiet suburban street.

And while we would love to think that a school like Souhegan, in such a bucolic setting, would be no place for violence, we’re certain the parents of Newtown, Conn., thought the same.

The assumption of safety is one we can no longer afford. Today, it is much safer to assume that we simply aren’t necessarily safe.

And yes, that’s a terrible way to live, but in many countries – notably Israel – people have been living that way for decades. No citizen of Israel can assume safety, and they take precautions – they have cops’ eyes, you can bet on that. And they don’t like it any more than we should, but it’s a reality at Souhegan High School, and everywhere else, whether we like it or not.

We have the utmost respect for the Community Council in concept and in action, and we don’t doubt that its members have only the best hopes for the school community, but in cases like this, when trained safety officers issue such strong warnings, it would behoove us to listen.

In the end, whatever decision is made about changing the school’s safety requirements will be up to the school board, and that’s the way it should be. The council is important and should certainly have a voice, but the ultimate responsibility for the safety of the school community resides with elected officials.

And let’s not forget that the day-to-day responsibility for that safety also falls to Officers Knox and Smith, and they’re the ones with the training.

Listen to them.