Massacre at Florida high school on minds of Bartholomew County students

School safety was on the minds of Bartholomew County students Thursday, a day after 17 people were killed at a high school in Parkland, Florida.

“Since it just happened, all I know is that there is heightened awareness and our kids are talking about it,” said David Wintin, principal at Hauser Jr. — Sr. High School in Hope.

It was a similar atmosphere Thursday among students in Columbus schools.

But what Winton and Bartholomew Consolidated School Corp. administrators in Columbus don’t yet know is the level of comfort local students have about safety in their own school surroundings.

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The Hope Police Department, which makes regular visits to the elementary-through-high school campus on the south side of the town, made a few extra trips to the buildings on its own, the junior high and high school tweeted out late Thursday morning.

During a conference after the April 20, 1999, shootings at Columbine High School in Colorado, which left 13 people dead and more than 20 others wounded, BCSC administrator Larry Perkinson said he learned that schools nationwide had experienced a 25 percent increase in safety concerns.

Since then, there have been 51 incidents with four or more fatalities in a single outburst of violence at American schools, resulting in nearly 300 deaths, according to the U.S. Secret Service.

“I’d hate to think concern has been diminished,” said Perkinson, his school district’s employee and student assistance coordinator.

In 81 percent of all school shootings, someone had information that the attacker was thinking about or was planning the shooting, according to the Secret Service.

“Our job is reminding the kids that we care about them,” Perkinson said.

“We want to establish relationships so they will trust us and share that information.”

Although awareness is always high right after a publicized school shooting, Wintin said it is up to everyone to pay attention to possible warning signs at all times.

With the belief that school corporations must keep up to date on new information and techniques, Hauser sent five teachers to safety conferences last year sponsored by the Indiana Department of Education.

Hauser will likely respond to Wednesday’s shootings in Florida by reviewing safety protocols that include lock-down drill practices, Wintin said.

As frustrating as it may be, Perkinson said there is no “magic umbrella” to protect all children from acts of homicide he describes as irrational and unforgivable.

However, school officials must go into business mode after these types of shootings, which includes reminding all of their constituencies to always remain vigilant, Perkinson said.

“But that doesn’t mean we don’t shed tears when children die, and we know it didn’t have to happen,” he said.

Flags at half-staff

Gov. Eric Holcomb is directing that flags be lowered to half-staff across the state sunset Monday in honor of the Florida school shooting victims.

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Mark Webber is a reporter for The Republic. He can be reached at mwebber@therepublic.com or 812-379-5636.