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Letters to the editor

October 15, 2006

Fanning flames of a nonexistent fire



To the editor:

As a teacher and parent, I share the grief and outrage felt nationwide following the recent rash of violence in schools.

As a subscriber, I am outraged by The Herald Mail's decision to capitalize on these emotions by sensationalizing one aspect of the story with your "investigation" of school security.

With public emotions running at a fever pitch, a newspaper has the opportunity to add perspective to the debate, to add breadth and depth to the discussion. Unfortunately, in this case you chose to insert yourself into the story, fan the flames of emotion and fear, and narrow the discussion to one small facet of the issue.

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Perhaps the 20 minutes one of your reporters spent checking for locked doors and wandering halls could have been used to analyze national statistics on school related violence.

Then you could have reported that the overwhelming majority of these incidents occur before and after school, in places like parking lots and fast food restaurants.

You could have further reported that when those incidents take place during the school day they are almost always perpetrated by people authorized to be in the building. In short, the security problems you went to great lengths to detail would have been a factor in only the tiniest percentage of cases over the past several years.

I suspect that in less time than it takes to walk from your office to the parking lot, a reporter could research all incidents of school violence involving intruders in Tri-State area schools during the school day.

When a terrible plane crash takes many lives we react with shock and grief, yet most of us realize that statistically air travel is much safer than driving.

Similarly, in spite of the horrible events that have occurred in schools in the recent weeks, we should remember that our children are much more likely to be harmed by reckless driving, smoking, or domestic violence than by violence in the schools. Could "it" happen at a school here? Yes. But "it" could also happen at the mall, at a concert, at an athletic event or even at church.

Executive Editor Terry Headlee, in his Sunday column, suggests that many of the schools investigated deserve a failing grade for security.

Fair enough. I say The Herald-Mail deserves a failing grade for sensationalizing the story. Reporters visited the schools on Thursday. The Friday and Saturday editions of The Herald-Mail used the story as a tease for a "Special Report" in the Sunday edition. If you honestly believed you had information vital to the public interest, why would you not report it as soon as possible? Could it be that The Herald Mail played on public fear and emotion to sell newspapers?

Yes, we must secure the schoolhouse doors. But let us also realize that in doing so we've addressed only the smallest of risks our children face each day. And let us hope for more responsible journalism from The Herald-Mail in the future.

Evan Price
Smithsburg




Guns, not schools, is the real issue



To the editor:

As both a parent and a high school teacher, the recent wave of violence in our nation's schools served as a sobering reminder of the times in which we live. I also found The Herald-Mail's investigative report on school safety interesting, if not overly shocking. In fact, the results of this report were, to a person who works in a very large school, obvious and presumable.

The fact is, schools will never be 100 percent safe or secure, and scenes, like the ones we have witnessed repeatedly since Columbine, will happen again.

And, when these horrific scenarios once again occupy the headlines of the daily news, collectively, Americans will look, once again, to the public schools for answers and for blame. And why not? Schools are easy scapegoats and blaming the school is infinitely easier than confronting the dark truths lurking at the heart of this problem.

We live in a nation with liberal handgun laws. This is the dark truth that lurks at the heart of school violence. In fact, this is the dark truth that lurks at the heart of a great majority of our most disturbing headlines.

Now, I fully expect that any card carrying member of the NRA who might happen to read this is muttering that tired epithet: Guns don't kill people, people kill people. Unfortunately this statement, in addition to its annoying redundancy, is shortsighted at best. I am not so ignorant as to suggest that a gun can somehow spring to life and go on a three state killing spree. However, in a great many cases wherein "people kill people," guns are the tools of choice.

I will close by stating that I am not proposing reform, or decrying those who own and use guns responsibly. I simply ask that we, as Americans, who so desperately cling to our right to bear arms, accept that there is a high price to be paid for this freedom. A price that may be paid by your children, your wife, your dearest friend, or the countless other innocent victims of handgun violence.

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