By editorial board • 

School district recognizes need for increased security

Thoughts about school shootings instantly produce images of Columbine and Sandy Hook. For Oregonians, those images include Thurston High School in 1998.

Gun violence at schools, however, is more than a rare occurrence. Beefing up school security is a necessity in this day and age, and it’s reassuring that the McMinnville School District remains one of the most proactive in the region. 

As reported last week, panic buttons recently were installed, connecting McMinnville schools directly to the district office. In the event of an “extreme emergency situation,” as Superintendent Maryalice Russell put it, the system will launch a quick response by school and police officials.

The system of panic buttons, which cost $82,000, adds to a security plan already including motion-sensor cameras and will soon include a newly created district security officer. 

Installing equipment and adding resources to better secure schools is costly. Of course, we hope it’s all for naught. Like most smaller communities, residents believe “it would never happen here.” But you never know. 

A report released this week by two national gun-control advocate groups names 44 occurrences of guns being shot in American schools since the Sandy Hook Elementary School tragedy on Dec. 14, 2012. That averages about one every 10 days. Twenty-eight of these shootings occurred in high, middle or elementary schools; the rest were at colleges and universities.

The only Northwest listing in the report was last Friday’s gunshot suicide at Bend High School.

It’s sad that our schools need expensive security systems, frequent training exercises and lockdown drills. But that reality seems unlikely to change. When it comes to preventing a school shooting, there is only so much that can be done.

Advocates on both sides continue a politically charged debate in coffee shops and on legislative floors. Take the guns away, and there will be no shootings, says one side; try to take the guns away, the other side counters, and those with malicious intent will find other ways to acquire the weapons.

It may be impossible to prevent all school shootings, but we can lower the risk of worst-case outcomes. When such a tragedy occurs, the first question is. “What could have been done?”

We feel good about steps taken locally. It’s the district’s job to have this firm, honest answer to that question: “The best we could.” District 40 seems intent on having that answer ready.

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