Moment Of Silence Held, Safety Addressed By JPS Board
In June 2022, members of the Jamestown Public Schools Board held a moment of silence to recognize the lives lost at an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas.
Prior to a Board of Education meeting Tuesday, Board President Paul Abbott again called for quiet reflection after six people — three 9 year olds and three adults — were killed by gunfire at a private school in Nashville, Tenn.
As he did less than a year ago Abbott, a former police officer, questioned the availability of weapons that regularly are used in mass shootings.
“How anyone can watch what happened yesterday and allow assault rifles to be accessible the way they are,” Abbott began. “I do not want to turn the Jamestown School Board into a Second Amendment debate club. … Again, I would ask any politician to sit in a room full of parents and parents of students who have been — Uvalde, Nashville and all these other ones — tell them why it’s important that people have access to military-style assault rifles.”
He later added, “I don’t understand it. I don’t understand how this continues to happen.”
Tuesday’s discussion followed remarks earlier in the meeting from student representatives Emylia Hallberg and Aubrey Reynolds. Both expressed concerns for students and staff safety after a handful of violent incidents last week, off school grounds, that involved youth.
Jamestown police twice responded March 21 to Park Street for reports of individuals with stab wounds. No charges have been announced by the department.
“I think the faculty, more or less, is concerned about the safety of their students and the safety of themselves in general,” Reynolds said. “They were promised a Safety Committee earlier this year. Not much action has been taking place, so they would like to see that go forward. … With the recent issues of fights, and all the stabbings, it’s kind of causing an uneasy feeling in the school.”
Hallberg and Reynolds called for a Safety Committee meeting involving district staff and the public to address what has been going on and what needs to be done.
The need for a committee has been discussed previously; parents last fall noted ongoing bullying problems involving some students and promoted the need for enhanced safety features at some of the schools.
Dr. Kevin Whitaker, schools superintendent, said he fully supported utilizing the Safety Committee. However, he said, only a handful of parents and members of the public have expressed interest in taking part in the committee, despite numerous concerns aired in September and October.
Abbott and other members of the Board of Education on Tuesday praised the student reps for openly expressing their concerns about staff and student safety.
“I do feel very strongly that we, as a district, work hard and we put safety as a top priority,” Abbott said. “It’s the foundation for everything that we have to do here. I think it’s important that people know and understand what we’re doing, but I absolutely agree that it’s really important that everyone have a voice and an opportunity to express their concerns.”
Patrick Slagle, board vice president, noted several safety measures that have been taken at JPS to better protect students and staff. They include securing the access to schools, implementing the Red Shirt Program, hiring new school resource officers and increasing social workers and mental health access.
“I don’t think there’s a person here on this board that doesn’t care, doesn’t want to do something,” Slagle said. “We’re here volunteering our time, day in and day out. Many of us have had kids that have gone through the school system. I still have two kids in the school system.”
He added, struggling to finish the sentence, “I worry about school safety, as a father…”
Christine Schnars, school board member, said she’s very appreciative of teachers who are dedicated to protecting their students. But she also noted that classroom instruction these days include how to hide in place and stay quiet in case of an intruder.
“I know it’s very difficult every morning when I drive them to school, to sit and watch them walk up the walk and go in the front door and know that for the next several hours I have no control over what happens to them,” she said. “Society needs to step up and do something about this.”