School security county-wide responsibility

Published 10:39 am Tuesday, February 19, 2013

For months now, it seems the Shelby County Commission and the Shelby County Sheriff’s Office have been debating whose responsibility it is to fund a police presence in Shelby County’s schools.

In December, after the Newtown, Conn. elementary school shooting shocked the nation, the commission rejected Sheriff Chris Curry’s request for immediate funding to place deputies in 11 schools across the county.

At the time, Curry said there is “an obligation to protect children and schools,” which we certainly agree with. But at the same time, Commissioner Lindsey Allison said that protecting children is “a collaborative effort on all of us.”

“I don’t want anyone to think we’re not trying, but we can’t just write a check. We’ve got to be smarter than that and get all the players to the table,” Allison said.

Allison was correct then, and she’s still correct now — even more so now that Shelby County has been touched with terror, after a 21-year-old Chelsea man has been charged with five counts of kidnapping and one count of making terrorist threats after holding five Chelsea Middle School students at gunpoint.

We thank God that no one was injured or killed in the incident, and we thank the Shelby County Sheriff’s deputy and school officials who talked the alleged gunman into releasing the students and surrendering to law enforcement.

However, it could have been so much worse. That’s why it’s time for Allison’s words of two months ago to come true — all the players need to come to the table.

That list includes the County Commission, the Sheriff’s Office, the Shelby County Board of Education, local city police departments, local legislators and representatives from all local school-related groups, including those attached to the Alabaster, Hoover and Shelby County school districts, private schools and any other school groups.

It’s time for representatives from all those entities to come together, sit down and discuss what needs to be done for our schools and how to financially accomplish those goals. After all, this is not solely the financial responsibility of the County Commission; the Shelby County Board of Education and others should share equally in the cost of security for our students.

Such a gathering should have happened right after the Newtown shooting, when this discussion first began; now that violence in our schools has, sadly, become an all-too-real consideration, such a gathering needs to be scheduled as soon as possible.

The We Say is the opinion of the Shelby County Reporter editorial board.