Our opinion: A reason to commend, a reason for vigilance

Published 8:10 am Wednesday, December 19, 2018

Austin Public Schools, staff and students, along with Austin Police should be commended for how Tuesday’s threat was handled.

Discovered by a student after school Monday, in a letter found in the restroom of a locker room, the threat called for shooting up the building starting at noon on Tuesday, according to school Superintendent David Krenz.

By coming up with a plan in the same night and committing to an organized delivery of the plan, Austin staff were able to conduct the school day as close to normal as possible, while ensuring as best they could the safety of the students and staff.

Email newsletter signup

By 9 p.m. on Monday, an email was already circulating to families as to the situation and displayed openly how the school was handling the situation.

Administration determined early on that all morning activities on Tuesday would be cancelled and that students would not be allowed into the school until 7:30 a.m.

Even then, students would only be allowed in through two entrances and student IDs would be required along with searches of backpacks.

Likewise, working in close concert with Austin High School, Pacelli invoked a soft lockdown, instilling its own measures to make sure their students were safe.

According to Austin High School Principal Andrea Malo in a Tuesday press conference, the students adhered to the plan smoothly and seemed to take the situation in stride, acting accordingly and with the school staff.

While APS and Austin police should be commended for their work, the actions of the student who turned in the letter should also be lauded. While nothing ultimately came of Tuesday’s threat, this student’s recognition of the situation helped the process move forward swiftly. Students and staff can take this as a lesson to always be alert and to approach staff or police when they come upon a situation like this.

However prepared all those involved were, though, the shadow hovering over the situation can’t be ignored — the idea that these kinds of preparations even need to be made.

The fact of the matter is, these are difficult times.

According to the website Gun Violence Archive, (www.gunviolencearchive.org) there have been 333 mass shootings — reported and verified — in the United States this year and 2,726 teens ages 12-17 have been killed or injured. Many of these stories aren’t even making the mainstream media anymore.

Those numbers are staggering and present a challenge for institutions like Austin Public Schools and Pacelli Catholic Schools, who must contend with possible threats by forming plans on how to handle given situations.

Regardless of what is or what is not being done by politicians at state and national levels, we invoke and plead that people remain vigilant in discerning possible threats such as the one discovered this week.

In the meantime, we remain confident that should any threats arise in the future, of which we hope there will be few or none at all, the administrations of our area schools as well as law enforcement will continue to do everything they can to prevent something horrible in our own hallways.