No. 199



When I was in the seventh grade in school we had a young, attractive English teacher by the name of Merlie Fenner. One day in class I mocked her and she promptly sent me to the principals office. The principal was swift in his assessment and without fanfare gave me twenty seven licks with a long paddle across my you-know-where. Needless to say, I never mocked her again. When it was all said and done and my parents learned of it, they didnt threaten to sue the school district or call the ACLU. They said, Give him another one if he needs it. Now the reason I have shared this with you is because in all the years I was in school, not one time did we have a student bring a gun to school or make a bomb threat. This type of activity was out of the question because we all knew what the consequences would have been.

To say that today we live in a different world would probably be the understatement of the century. With regard to respect for authority, discipline and being held accountable for our actions, I have known, as Im sure you have, that we have been going downhill for the past several decades. Millions of Americans have been willing to discredit what I am saying until the tragic shootings in several of our nations public schools. These tragic incidents have served to let the whole world know where we are as a society. To be sure I know that most kids are good kids and they are victims as well. But in the wake of these unthinkable events, our national conscience has been pricked and people are now actually looking for solutions.

A few weeks ago I learned about one school district that has taken extreme measures to make their schools safe. In a recent conversation with Cecelia Spear, Director of the Office Of Student Affairs for the Fort Worth Independent School District (Texas), I learned the history and background of the various measures they have taken to insure student safety. Going all the way back to 1968, this district had entered into a partnership with the Fort Worth Police Department in a school-police liaison program. Many positive steps followed this action. In 1993 metal detectors were installed and used in random locations during the school day as well as at the entrance of all after school programs and athletic events. A couple of years later the Fort Worth City Council passed a half-cent sales tax to fund more officers in the schools along with surveillance cameras in all school busses, middle schools and high schools, a total of over 800 cameras.

Now granted, this is a large inner city school district and extreme measures had to be taken but all in all its been a great success. But as you know, what happens in large city school districts has a way of filtering down to smaller cities and then to small rural schools as well. In the wake of these tragic shootings many people are now clamoring for metal detectors in all schools.

In closing, I would like to say that I detest those products and services that have become necessary because of fear. Not necessarily the people who are the vendors but the irresponsible people in the media and other areas of our society who make it possible for them to thrive. I think we can use our tax money in a much more productive way than hiring extra policemen, installing metal detectors, surveillance cameras, sniffing dogs and all the rest. Our children however, are our greatest resource and we must do what is necessary to protect them and create a safe learning environment. Really and truly the choice is up the American people. We can either take steps to change our culture or spend the money on nonproductive safety measures. (Jim Davidson is a motivational speaker and syndicated columnist. You may contact him at 2 Bentley Drive, Conway, AR 72034.)