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Our View: Jefferson school deputy will need system's help

May 07, 1999

After 30 incidents of property destruction and a bomb threat that cost students a day of school last Wednesday, the Jefferson County Board of Education voted unanimously to put a uniformed, armed sheriff's deputy in the high school.

We'd like to think that will solve the problem, but statements made by Principal Richard Keeler lead us to believe that the fix for what ails the school is more than a one-person job.

In making his request, Keeler said that in 35 years he has never seen such an unpredictable climate in a school. The level of student anger is rising, he said, adding that he wanted the deputy to be armed and in uniform.

Keeler's successful argument follows a plea he made in January, after a student was expelled for stabbing another in the face with a pen, and the suspension of several students for fighting.

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With 1,600 students, it's difficult to believe that a single deputy will be able to handle every situation that arises, or prevent every incident of property destruction. For that to happen, there's got to be change in the school culture.

Someone - preferably someone with professional counseling expertise - needs to talk to students about why they're so angry. Is it a rivalry between student groups, or between youngsters who live in different areas of the county, or is it something else?

Once officials get to these causes, other measures might be appropriate. If students are using certain kinds of clothes as the basis of a rivalry and conflict, perhaps it's time to think about school uniforms. Before anyone thinks about the expense of such a move or the damage to someone's right to express themselves, the sacrifices would be small compared to the physical, financial and emotional costs of being stabbed in the face.

Maybe the answer is anger-management classes, or alternative classes for those who can't control their wrath. Maybe it's a "zero tolerance" policy that ejects aggressive students so those who can control their emotions are able concentrate on learning.

This is not a vote of "no confidence"in any deputy Jefferson County will assign to the school, but a plea to give that officer all the help he needs.

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