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Carnahan releases results of school violence task force

October 07, 1999
By: Mamie Smith
State Capital Bureau

JEFFERSON CITY - Gov. Mel Carnahan is taking steps to ensure that Missouri's 2,000 public schools do not have the same fate as Littleton, Colorado; Springfield, Oregon; and Pearl, Mississippi.

On Wednesday, Carnahan released the findings compiled by a specially appointed 11 member task force set up to deal with the potential of violence in Missouri schools.

"I don't think we want to be yelling fire in a theater," said Carnahan. "We are not. But on the other hand, I think for us not to be prepared, not to think through what might happen would also be negligent on our part."

The task force calls on schools and communities to regulate the level of security they feel necessary in their own schools. However, the task force also released eight broad recommendations to help guide schools in combating school violence.

"A lot of the recommendations you see in these reports deal with students being afraid at school," Gary Kempker, chairman of the task force, said. He said the recommendations are what schools and communities can do to deal with this potential fear.

Among the eight recommendations Carnahan said there are two main legislative issues.

"One will be access to handguns," Carnahan said. "It does call for trigger locks on new hand guns."

Another important legislative issue is consideration of the criminal and civil liability of parents when handguns are used for violence, Carnahan said.

The task force also recommended community-wide partnerships between schools and other agencies. One such partnership is resource officers, which are becoming a growing trend in Missouri schools, Carnahan said.

Greg White, a school resource officer who served on the task force, said that officers in the school system build bridges with students and faculty. He said that officers offer "reality therapy" to show a person where they are going.

The task force released a school crisis response plan which offers schools a workbook approach that allows schools to tailor disaster plans to their particular school's needs.

The crisis response plan helps schools plan for natural emergencies like tornadoes, fires and earthquakes. The plan also prepares schools to deal with school violence.

"It's important to indicate that even if you follow this word for word there are no absolute guarantees, violence can occur in any school," said Kempker.

Carnahan said, it will take school employees, parents, students, community organizations and law enforcement officials all working together to make violence prevention a success.

The task force also recommended that money be increased, redirected and/or made more flexible to allow schools to implement the recommendations.

Carnahan said no money has been budgeted for this yet, but that money may be awarded at a later time.