Officials don’t want to see repeat of Columbine here

Officials don't want to see repeat of Columbine here by David Lias More "profiling" of students. The use of only one entrance and exit in a building. Beefing up police presence.

These are just a few of the steps that likely will be put in place at Columbine High School in Littleton, CO after 15 people died there April 20 in the deadliest act of school violence in the nation's history.

These steps are also likely in store for Vermillion's public schools.

Superintendent Robert Mayer has announced that a task force will be formed soon to deal with safety issues in the school system.

"I think that all schools are going to have to respond to the Colorado shooting," he said, "and to the ones in Kentucky, and Arkansas and Oregon. So we're really looking at some kind of response to make school safer, and although I don't think we can ever 100 percent eliminate this kind of thing from happening, I do think we are obligated to do something in our schools and community to make schools as safe as we can."

Mayer is proposing that the task force take on a twofold role: 1) Develop procedures that would help prevent random acts of violence in the schools. Those procedures include the steps listed at the beginning of this story, plus increased staff training, the possible relocation of high school offices, and dealing with the bully issue.

The task force will also develop a specific plan of action in the event that violence occurs in the schools.

This panel, Mayer said, will consist of school administrators, one or two school board members, school counselors, law enforcement personnel and parents.

Mayer hopes the task force can begin meeting in mid-May. It will remain in force until its two main goals are met.

He admits that some of the suggested goals of the task force may range from inconvenient, such as using only one door in the school, to the more controversial idea of profiling students and more closely monitoring their behavior.

The high school offices are presently located in the middle of the school building. Those offices may need to be moved to a location near the entrance of the building in a design similar to what's already in place at the middle school.

"Relocating the offices is a significant budgetary item, and the school board is really going to have to decide whether they want to go that route or not," Mayer said. "If the task force thinks it has value, they will make a recommendation to the board, and they can deal with it."

It's important for the task force to also deal with the "bully issue," Mayer said, because the deaths at Columbine

are a tragic reminder of what can happen when some individuals feel ostracized.

"Kids will do something to be accepted," Mayer said. "It's either positive or its negative. These kids (in Colorado) formed a group that was negative.

"We may need to start in the younger grades," he added. "I think the role of the counselors will increase with the students."

Mayer hopes to receive phone calls from parents who are interested in serving on the task force. The panel, he said, will be large, with eight administrators, five guidance counselors and possibly two or three law enforcement officials.

"I would like to get five or six parents to participate, too," he said.

The task force may end up meeting during the day at times, and may have to meet at times this summer as it prepares for the school year.

Mayer said its important to take action because last week's shooting in Colorado and the other school shootings of recent years occurred in schools and environments that aren't all that different than Vermillion's. "None of the shootings have taken place in the big center-city schools," he said. "They're not in Chicago, they're not in New York or Los Angeles. This can happen anywhere, and the children who do this are essentially misfits for whatever reason, and that's not reserved for the central-city schools. That happens everywhere."

Mayer said the school district would also welcome help from USD officials.

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