Keeping our children safe

There is a poem hanging in Ms. Kim’s kindergarten class at Arthur D. Healey School in Somerville, Mass.:

Lock down, lock down

Lock the door

Shut the lights off

Say no more

Go behind the desk and hide

Wait until it’s safe inside

Lock down, lock down

It’s all done

Now it’s time to have some fun

***

Disturbing, isn’t it? But that is the world in which our kids are attending school these days. (For perspective, however, look up footage of children in the 1950s running duck-and-cover drills or learning how to prepare their fallout shelters, in school.)

Mid-Ohio Valley residents can take some small comfort, after getting a glimpse of the absolutely magnificent response by Jackson Middle School, Wood County Schools and law enforcement agencies throughout the county — and across the river — last Thursday. Those folks are well trained, prepared and ready to move at an instant if they believe our kids are in danger.

By all accounts the system in place to protect children in our schools worked as intended after the Charleston office of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms alerted Jackson Middle School in Vienna to a potential threat — an individual who they believed might be headed toward the school, and who might be carrying a “semiautomatic pistol.”

Though children and teachers at Jackson were scattered throughout the school and outside as part of end-of-year student Olympics, Principal Richard Summers said all students were inside and accounted for, and the school was on lockdown within two minutes and 40 seconds. Meanwhile, units from the Vienna and Parkersburg police departments, the Wood County Sheriff’s Office and West Virginia State Police were racing to the scene.

“The response was incredible,” Summers said. “We had police in the building and setting up a perimeter outside in almost no time at all.”

After a very short time, a phone call related to the potential threat was traced to a juvenile in Belpre, and Belpre Police Department officers found him, talked to him and turned the matter over to Vienna police, who began the process of questioning him and investigating the incident.

A set of all-calls to parents of Jackson Middle School students kept them informed during the approximately half-hour lockdown, and once the matter was resolved, students were able to return to their Olympics activities.

“As a principal, and I think as a parent, I’m very pleased with how all of this was handled,” Summers said.

He should be.

In fact, the teamwork, communication, speed and display of preparedness witnessed by the public was impressive and comforting.

Though the juvenile in question seems to have turned out to be less of a threat than the ATF initially feared, it is good to know they took even the smallest perceived threat with deadly seriousness. We have witnessed too many other incidents in which law enforcement did not, and children reaped the consequences.

It is good to know the schools have plans in place and have been through enough training to implement them quickly. It is good to know our law enforcement community is also ready. They all deserve our praise and gratitude.

What a shame it is that Mid-Ohio Valley residents had so many horrific national events flashing through their minds as Thursday’s incident unfolded. We must never fall victim to a false sense of “it can’t happen here.”

But in this case, it didn’t; and it seems as though everyone responding after the initial call behaved in precisely the correct way to handle the situation.

Thank you, folks.

Christina Myer is executive editor of The Parkersburg News and Sentinel. She can be reached via e-mail at cmyer@newsandsentinel.com

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