This week has been a tough one for children

Published 9:44 pm Friday, October 6, 2006

This past week or so has been a bad one for children and young people.

There were the school shootings in Colorado, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania. Six girls and a principal were killed in the three school shootings. Five more young girls remain hospitalized from the shooting in Pennsylvania.

On Tuesday, the Picayune school board will make its decision on a high school senior charged with having a gun in a car at Picayune Memorial High School. Early word is that a disciplinary committee may be recommending this child be allowed back in school despite specific school policy to the contrary.

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That may be rumor or that may be true, but regardless of which it is, let’s hope, especially in the light of what has happened at those other three schools, that the school board will stick fast to its policy. Word needs to be sent now and sent with finality that guns will not be allowed at school. PMHS students made their feelings known in the Teen 411 meeting a week ago. They said emphatically that there should be no tolerance for guns at school, and that if the student did bring a gun to school in a car, then that student should be expelled.

At the same time the school board is meeting, a School Safety Rally is supposed to be taking place in the field between Crosby Memorial Library and St. Charles Borromeo Catholic Church. The rally begins at 5 p.m., an hour before the school board is supposed to meet, and runs until 7 p.m. The school board probably will not have made its decision by the time the rally is scheduled to end since the matter will be taken up in executive session, which usually begins after the public session of the meeting, which begins at 6 p.m.

There was other disconcerting news this past week concerning young people. High school juniors and seniors who have gone to Washington, D.C., as pages at the U.S. House of Representatives, a wonderful opportunity for a high school student, apparently have been approached through E-mail by a congressman, Mark Foley of Florida, with sex on his mind. Foley has since resigned and blames all kinds of things, other than simple perversion, for his actions.

By all accounts, his actions appear to have been a form of stalking of young men. Whether any sexual activity was an outcome of his actions at this time appears to be unclear, but Foley’s action of approaching these young men is sickening.

To make the matter even worse, if that is possible, is the lack of action on the part of those in the House of Representatives, or who worked for members of the House, to put a stop to the actions and to discipline Foley. There is still a big argument as to whom knew what and when. Despite the investigation that has been begun into the matter, the whole truth of it may never be known, at least not by the public. Politicians are more famous for finding cover in such situations than they are for ever doing that which is right.

Another sad thing about the congressional scandal is that it apparently is endangering a wonderful program that has been of great benefit to those students who have gone to Washington as pages. It seems many of the congressmen had rather blame the program than blame those who have misused it and those who didn’t do their due diligence to protect the young men and women who come there to serve their government while at the same time receiving a real education and grounding in how that government works.

The amazing thing about all these situations is that everyone who speaks on the shootings, bringing a gun to school and on the events involving pages at Congress says children must be protected. There needs to be more than just speech, but the solutions need to be carefully arrived at and not just knee jerks so a bunch of politicians can say they did something.

President Bush is calling a conference to study what the federal government could do to keep children safe at school. I personally doubt much more can be done at most schools without turning the schools into virtual prisons during the time that students are present.

Keeping out intruders such as those who killed the students in Colorado and the principal in Wisconsin probably would require a complete redesign of school buildings, greatly restricting entrances and exits, a redesign that could cause other safety concerns in the case of fire or some other event that would require a quick evacuation of school buildings.

One program in Picayune schools that schools around the nation might replicate is the school safety councils. Those students and the comfort they have developed in talking with police officers and other figures of authority reportedly helped uncover the incident of the gun brought in the car to PMHS. By reporting the gun, it is possible that a much worse incident may been avoided, one that would have added PMHS to the sad, growing list of schools where gun violence has taken place.

Let’s hope that the Picayune school board can stick by its policy Tuesday night. PMHS doesn’t need to become known for anything other than turning out well educated young men and women who are ready to go on with the rest of their lives.