The 2014-15 school year begins Thursday for students in the Park City and North Summit School Districts and on Tuesday, Aug. 26, for the youngsters in the South Summit School District. It is an exciting time marked by new backpacks, fresh notebooks and soaring hopes. These days, though, the simple joy of sending a child off to school is mixed with deep concern for their safety and emotional well-being.
Those worries reflect an increasing awareness of the risks facing children all over the country as reports of school violence, discrimination and bullying spread through the media. And even though Summit County seems to be safely isolated from danger, we know better. None of the schools whose names have become synonyms for the horror of school violence ever thought it could happen on their campuses.
Fortunately, our local school districts, with the help of many local law enforcement and health agencies have been working hard to ensure our students are safe. But they need our help to ensure their plans are successful. Some frustrated students may complain about locked entrances, bureaucratic check-in procedures and seemingly overprotective resource officers prowling their school halls and lunchrooms, and parents may resist standardized procedures for dropping off and picking up their kids for dental appointments, etc. The same groups may also question the need for anti-bullying seminars, GLBT support clubs, sexual harassment awareness workshops and anti-discrimination policies. But they are a small price to pay for our children's safety and our own peace of mind.
Administrators should be encouraged to strengthen and stand by those efforts, not be criticized when they seem inconvenient.
We are also calling on everyone to listen for warning signs of troubled individuals which may surface first as subtle cries for help. The best way to vaccinate our community from random violence is to arm our students, parents and teachers with resources information, counseling, access to professional help and the budgets needed to train law enforcement personnel for the unthinkable.
We are thrilled to see a new class of bright young students queue up to fill the places of their predecessors and proud of the community that has stepped up to invest in their education. That commitment extends to arming them with knowledge, confidence and constant support.