As a grandpa, dad and school superintendent, the tragedy in Newtown has touched me in a profound way. The safety of the 12,000 students and 1,800 employees of the Bartholomew Consolidated School Corp. weighs heavy on my mind. Parents remind us that this is the No. 1 priority.
Complex issues call for complex solutions. It will be a combination of things that can reduce, but might never eliminate, these senseless acts. And we cannot use this as an excuse for inactivity.
Senseless. You will not be able to make sense of this act of evil.
Security: Schools cannot and should not be prisons. While we will review and improve our systems and facilities, security alone cannot be the solution.
Mental health: This may be the conversation we should be having. One in 17 people has some degree of mental illness, and only one in three is getting help. There are clear patterns of behavior that often lead to these acts. Those who take hideous actions are often in a dark hole for an extended period of time before the tragedy. We need to address the illnesses above the neck with the same passion as we do those easily identifiable.
Culture of guns and violence: Those who struggle with fantasy and reality are often surrounded by video games and movies that are labeled as if violence is the norm. Add the presence of guns, and the time bomb begins ticking. We track and license mo-peds now in Indiana, but you can go to a gun show and walk out with almost anything. We need to close this loophole.
Bright line: I support the Second Amendment, and I own hunting rifles. There were at least five guns in the Newtown home of the criminal. He chose to leave the hunting rifles at home. The assault rifle and semiautomatic handguns were taken to the classroom. Many of the innocent were shot 10 times or more. To me, there is a bright line between guns that can support the Second Amendment and the assault weapons that should only be used by the law or military.
Communicate, watch and report: We had a Central Middle School student assaulted on the way home by another young person who did not have a connection to our schools. My guess is that student(s) at CMS knew this assault was likely to happen due to social media. Students are usually comfortable confiding, as we have nurtured that culture. Had we known of the possibility, an assault could have been avoided.
I take some comfort in knowing that, by every measure (referrals, suspensions, etc.), the behavior of our students has never been better. Our survey is consistent and clear. Students feel the safest when they are at school. We want to be sure that continues.
Be there for our students in the coming weeks as we deal with the grief. Be there for your friends and neighbors. The holiday season is often toughest on those who have the least support. I hope you continue the conversation that will make our schools and community safer in the days to come.
My door is always open.
John Quick is superintendent of the Bartholomew Consolidated School Corp. He can be reached by phone at 376-4220 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.