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Cynicism rules on school safety proposals

Posted: January 23, 2013 - 12:02am

Oh, how clever.

I don’t want to sound too cynical, but the actions of Georgia’s government often makes that impossible.

A couple of years ago, leading up to the gubernatorial election, then-Gov. Sonny Perdue toured the state bragging about what he claimed were vast improvements in the state’s high school graduation rate under his leadership.

Among other things, his claim was intended as an indictment of graduation rates under his predecessor, Roy Barnes, who just happened to be running again against Perdue’s preferred successor, Nathan Deal.

What Perdue didn’t say is that he knew the numbers he was using were as fake as Manti Te’o’s girlfriend. They came from a faulty formula that would be eliminated the following year in compliance with federal requirements, and that once adjusted the state’s graduation rate would be reflected more realistically – and far less positively. He touted the phony numbers anyway.

Then, last year, when a Republican straw poll showed strong support for restrictions on lobbyist spending, House Speaker David Ralston reacted like a spoiled kid. He had tried to prevent the poll from taking place at all, and when he didn’t get his way, he warned that he’d just prohibit lobbyists from spending anything.

He knew a complete ban would never pass, and that no one would offer a bill proposing such a ban. But making the claim allowed him to sound like he was tougher than anyone on the issue, even though the man who’d just taken his family on a $17,000, lobbyist-funded overseas junket clearly had no interest in any restrictions on handouts.

Just last week, Georgia lawmakers passed lobbyist “reforms” that are a joke – and lobbyist-funded trips are still allowed.

And now we’re back to Gov. Nathan Deal. He caused quite a stir last week when he proposed, as a solution to school safety worries, allowing principals to carry guns. Enabling them to do so would be up to local school boards, and the personnel would have to complete the same training as police officers.

Here’s what he didn’t say: The state won’t pay for any of it. Not for the training, not for the guns, not for the bullets, the holsters, the secure lockers, none of it. And certainly the state won’t assume any liability if anything goes bad.

Deal knows school systems around the state are strapped for cash. He should; he and his legislative allies made them that way with years of funding reductions. Given the choice between books or bullets, he knows most school systems are likely to opt for education.

Undoubtedly there will be a few systems, probably the tiny ones with only one or two schools, that will take the steps to put guns in their principals’ hands. Parents in neighboring school systems will then, understandably, ask why their children aren’t given the same safety considerations.

Elected school board members in those systems will have to decide whether to cut funding elsewhere or raise taxes to pay for training and arming principals, or for beefing up their existing public safety staff, or for entering agreements – likely, at additional cost to local taxpayers – with law enforcement agencies to dedicate officers to their schools.

The cynical part? Deal gets to run for re-election in two years by claiming he worked to “make schools safer,” without having broken a sweat or opened the state’s wallet. He’s probably already rounded up a dozen kids to surround him for a photo-op.

Oh, wait. That’s President Obama. How clever.

(Barry L. Paschal is publisher of The Columbia County News-Times. Email barry.paschal@newstimesonline.com, or call 706-868-1222, ext. 106. Follow at www.twitter.com/barrypaschal.)

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Comments (4)

Local Interests

Missed On The Zinger

Very interesting editorial where you accurately reminded us of how Georgia Republican politicians are generally a bunch of lying sleezebags but then ended it by taking (and missing) a potshot at the President.

I will say that I thought the President made a mistake by taking the Sandy Hook tragedy and turning it into a gun control issue. He stood a much better chance of gaining broad support if he would have limited it to a discussion on mental health, which would naturally lead to a discussion on database sharing and background checks.

Little Lamb

Hardened Entrances

Speaking of school security, how about hardening the entrances to our schools? In many schools, any John Doe can merely walk in the front door and sashay down the hallway to a classroom without confronting any admin official insisting on purpose of visit, I.D., auto tag number, etc.

Why not have only one unlocked entrance to each school building, and that entrance must be an entrance to a sealed room (except for the door he entered into) where he must present credentials before being buzzed into the school proper?

It might lead to a different design for future schools to avoid the "open campus" look with several classroom buildings, gyms, etc. scattered around with no school admin personnel at the entrance doors. But, then, are we really serious about school security, or are we only handwringing because of a recent, but very rare event?

Barry Paschal

Thanks for the comments

Local Interests: Thanks for the comments. Obviously I disagree on the "miss" of the "zinger." The point isn't to take a shot at Obama, whose cynical use of those children as props already was established. The point is to take a shot at a Republican who is just as cynically manipulative, yet undoubtedly would be among those criticial of Obama for doing the same thing.

Little Lamb: Excellent suggestion, and likely to be part of a future commentary. Most campuses aren't designed as such a secure environment because no one previously has anticipated the need for them to be (and we should be honest in our assessement that any such "need" now is more an emotional response than reality-driven). Having said that, I've visited several schools in recent weeks for different purposes, but in each case pondered what it would be like to walk in, armed, and wreak havoc. It's more than a little disconcerting to see how easy it would be, though I have to admit my "test" is skewed because so many of them know who I am. I'd love for the school system to bring in an outsider for a security "audit" to give it a real look.

Little Lamb

Poster Child

Greenbrier High School is an example. When you walk in the front door a vast open hallway lies before you. You have to take a detour off to the left (and open a door) to talk to office staff. Unlike your experience, when I visited Greenbrier a month or so ago I was completely unknown, I had never been in the building before. But it would have been very easy to bypass the office and enter the general population of the school.