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Sandy Hook Elementary shooting raises debates about school security

7:53 PM, Dec 17, 2012   |    comments
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GRAND RAPIDS (WZZM) -- The Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting has turned the issue of school security into a big debate on social media.

You'll find the security warning "Trespassers Will Be Prosecuted" outside many school entrances in the region, including at Grand Rapids Public Schools.

But in the last few days, images have popped up on social media in the debate over making schools safer.

One picture circulating on Facebook reads: "Which of these signs will prevent another tragedy -- 'All weapons are prohibited on these premises,' or, "Staff heavily armed and trained, any attempt to harm children will be met with deadly force'?"

You might read it as good scare tactic for schools to use, or you might see it as the next step in school security.

Larry Johnson isn't a fan.

"This is what happens when social media gets out of control," he said.

Johnson is the Grand Rapids Public Schools (GRPS) public safety and security director, and serves as president of the National Association of School Safety and Law Enforcement Officers.

"To even remotely think about arming school teachers and arming school administrators is defintely not the road we should be traveling down right now," he said.

Johnson has traveled to Littleton, Colorado, and Jonesboro, Arkansas to learn from those school massacres, and he developed safety training programs for multiple local school districts.

"We've had Muskegon, Kentwood, North Point Christian, Catholic Central and Grand Rapids Christian Schools go through the training," said Christina Johnson, GRPS training coordinator.

Some schools continue to train with GRPS, which holds sessions two Saturdays and one Tuesday every month for crisis management, code red and more.

"The state requires us to have about 22 responses, we have about 36 responses," said Johnson.

So ask Johnson, following the second worst school shooting massacre in US history, if more could be done at GRPS?

"Our schools are safe. Schools are safe across the country."

He says you can put all the safety measures you want into place, but the focus needs to turn to families.

"I'm concerned more today about what's going on in our community then I am what's going on in our schools," he said, "because what's going on in my community is going to impact my school one way or another."

We also talked with East Grand Rapids Schools Superintendent Sara Shubel on Monday. She said she is re-evaluating ways to make her schools safer, and discussed her plans with the police chief.

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