By Steve Woodward
From whence do these insane teen-aged gunmen come? Is one of them living among us in Moore County?
Yes. Almost certainly one lurks in every community.
And yet Moore County Schools administrators, and some members of the school board, continue to view the threat in the abstract and with little sense of urgency. They fill the vacuum created by their lack of intellect with willful arrogance.
School superintendent Tim Locklair recently invested considerable time revising a regulation to address how the public is “allowed” to reject age inappropriate books in school libraries. But as to the matter of resources allocated to protecting schools, there are no regulation revisions ongoing. Instead, we must wait for money to be budgeted.
While we wait, and debate, the next gunmen is emboldening himself in the shadows of our society. How long can we assure one another that “Uvalde (Texas) will never happen here”.
Yet of the 13 Moore public schools that are not guarded by “resource officers” all are elementary schools, in which the youngest and most vulnerable children reside. The Uvalde killer targeted an elementary school. The 2012 Sandy Hook killer in Connecticut also ended defenseless grade school lives.
But during the July 11 Moore Board of Education meeting the discussion was only about proposed budgeting to deploy more campus police. A schools security official facing questions has few ready answers to basic questions. What is rapid deployment training? Why is there no provision to prepare campus police by providing trauma medical training? Why is there not an established document of understanding delineating which law enforcement officer is in charge amid an active shooter emergency at one of our schools?
Wall Street Journal columnist Peggy Noonan’s observations should stop school administrators, law enforcement, board members, principals, teachers and parents in their tracks.
“You know what was obvious about the shooters in Uvalde and Highland Park? They were insane and dangerous,” she writes. “Anyone bothering to look could see, certainly family members or close friends. The killers physically presented themselves in the world as demons you’d meet in hell.
“On social media they posted sick and violent videos and pictures. They had made threats. The Highland Park shooter had threatened to kill his family; police had been to the house and removed his weapons. The Uvalde shooter made threats online and posted pictures of dead cats. They were loners, in their heads and obsessed with social media.”
Last year, then-school board chair Libby Carter fear mongered for months on end by imposing heightened security during board meetings due to what was described as a credible threat. It was later revealed by the state bureau of investigation that no such threat was on its radar.
We never will know what Carter, or the Moore Schools administration and its police force, knew back then. We won’t know in the future when another threat emerges.
What we do know today is that Moore County Schools is contemplating hiring 12 new officers while filling two currently vacant slots. During a July 11 presentation we learned the positions are offered in a shockingly inadequate salary range of $31,000 to $42,000 (not including benefits). We learned that training, weaponizing, equipping and buying vehicles will cost taxpayers $1.179 million initially, and close to $800,000 annually going forward.
Meanwhile, the force in place has not received active shooter training since 2017, was last exposed to threat/risk assessment training in 2018, and never has undergone trauma medical training.
Even more alarming, when board member Bob Levy asked about chain of command in the event that a school police officer responds to a 911 alert involving an armed individual on a local school campus, Moore Schools administrators appeared to tap dance as fast as their legs would permit to allay Levy’s concerns.
Fellow board member David Hensley ultimately received acknowledgement that there are no existing memorandums of understanding detailing how response to an active shooter will go down, or how other local law enforcement agencies would become involved in coordinating that response.
A slogan visible at Pinehurst Elementary School declares to all who enter that the school is “in the business of play”. For the sake of our community, something less cryptic needs to be demanded for all Moore County schools. It’s well past time to exit the business of law enforcement.