To Everyone Who Wants Safer Schools in Chardon

I live in Chardon. My family loves Chardon. We just had dinner at Morgan’s Place on Chardon Square last week. We’re looking forward to hot and fresh maple syrup for a buck-a-bowl at the Chardon Maple Festival soon.   The 200th birthday of Chardon as a patriotic community in Ohio’s Western Reserve has finally arrived in 2012. This is not how we, the good folk of Chardon, had planned to commemorate it. 

Tonight our hearts ache for our friends, neighbors, and our Chardon community after the senseless violence that left two of our innocent students dead and several others seriously injured. We wish there were some way to make it go away. We wish there were something we could do to help. We pray. And that’s a lot. But still, we wish we could do more. Our family and countless others will attend the candlelight vigil tomorrow night at St. Mary’s in Chardon just as others are doing tonight in other churches. We’ll speak kind and sincere words. Perhaps we’ll find little ways. A dinner. An errand. A gesture to let the hurting know we care. Hopefully, our frustrated efforts won’t be a burden to those in pain right now in Chardon.

Somewhere in all that frustration, we will be tempted as a community to put blame on someone or something. And when we do, my concern is that we will choose to put blame on loose security in our schools as we vainly dream of a world free of all risks or dangers. As a fellow school administrator myself, I feel this pain in a special way. I feel for Chardon Schools Superintendent Joe Bergant. I can only imagine that the scrutiny and pressure he will face in the coming weeks will be intense. He has my prayers as I am sure he does yours. I know the sense of responsibility, of ownership, that I feel for each student in my care each day. I think of them as my own. I hope that in a moment of crisis such as this, I would do what Frank Hall and Joseph Ricci allegedly did – rush the shooters and protect our kids. I hope. None of us can know until that moment arrives.

But instead of heading the media’s call for metal detectors or prison-like security measures that further degrade the creative environment of our schools, I would ask  the opposite. It pains me to know that as a school administrator, I can do very little – by law – to defend the children in my care in the face of deadly force. I can make it difficult. I can erect barriers to evil. I can and should call the police. But while I wait for them to arrive,  I can’t stop those with intent to use deadly force — in school. Once I leave campus, by Ohio law, I can exercise my right as a citizen of Ohio to conceal and carry a weapon to deter such violence if I choose to do so. But not in school — where everyone knows these awesome kids come  to learn every day. We trust our fellow Hilltoppers with CCW permits as they stand next to us in line at the Super Wal-Mart on Meadowlands Drive here in Chardon. Do we trust our teachers less? Don’t they deserve a chance to protect Chardon’s own kids?

Maybe it’s time for the great state of Ohio to give local districts the authority to decide how best to protect our own children. Some can choose to pursue the popular lockdown-and-hide-until-help-arrives model. Others can choose to prepare, equip, and train select teachers and staff to aid in responding to the danger with intentional training. At least one district in Texas has already done it. Many states around the country have considered legislation to accomplish this same thing. For those of us who know and love Geauga County as a 2nd Amendment haven, it is tragically ironic that such an attack would occur in what must be the one place in the county where a shooter knows he would not be met with resistance from CCW holders or legally armed homeowners.

I am not saying that such a policy would have made difference in this tragic circumstance. Not yet. We just don’t know the facts. The day has a been a harrowing jumble of information and misinformation. Perhaps some lives could have been saved. Perhaps not. I beg of my fellow citizens in Chardon: don’t follow the media’s frenzied lead on the solution to safer schools in Chardon.

For now, we grieve. And that is as it should be. We share the hurt as much as humanely possible. But when the conversation eventually turns to how to make our Chardon schools safer, let us move with wisdom in a manner befitting the 200 years of patriotic and independent spirit that carved out this city on a hill — our beloved Chardon, home of the Hilltoppers.

UPDATE: Chardon Will Rise. My report and thoughts from last night’s Candlelight Service in Chardon.

UPDATE: Thanks to my friend Hugh Hewitt for the mention. Prayers are much appreciated for the injured, their families, and our Chardon community.

I invite Hewitt readers to subscribe to my blog above through e-mail or by RSS feed for regular updates on creative thinking for faith, family, and life.

22 Responses to “To Everyone Who Wants Safer Schools in Chardon”

  1. Frank T February 28, 2012 at 11:34 AM #

    Not just Texas.  Many districts in Utah arm teachers.  It’s the standard in Israel. According to Ltc. Dave Grossman in his Bulletproof Mind seminar, there has never been a shooting death in a school in UT.

    • BillintheBlank February 28, 2012 at 12:12 PM #

      Good point, Frank. The Israeli model may have some merit. Do you think it could or should work here?

  2. Insane Diego February 28, 2012 at 4:40 PM #

    Right on and well said.  When seconds count, the police are minutes away.

  3. Valerie Lesiak February 28, 2012 at 8:13 PM #

    Thanks for your common sense at a time when emotions run on overload. You can try to make a case for why guns should be illegal, but that only helps the criminals and not the victims. The police can not be everywhere. There is no way a cop will be able to show up in time when the bad guy is kicking down your door. Gun free zones only protect the criminal for they are no respecters of rules and would rather their prey be unarmed. 

    • BillintheBlank February 28, 2012 at 8:27 PM #

      Good comments, Valerie. Isn’t it when we make decisions based on fear that we have these temptations to restrict rather than to trust ?

  4. Michael B. February 29, 2012 at 10:01 AM #

    When the law is immoral, it is moral to disobey. Any law that makes it easier for the deranged criminal to harm you and harder for you to defend yourself from his violence is a law that should be disobeyed.

    There’s not a jury in the world that would’ve convicted someone from stopping this maniac forever.

    • BillintheBlank February 29, 2012 at 10:05 AM #

      Passionate and heartfelt thoughts, Michael. Perhaps we can work to change the laws as our first option?

      • Michael B. February 29, 2012 at 10:09 AM #

        Indeed, sir. I think that may be a good option in Ohio and other states where possible.

  5. Michael B. February 29, 2012 at 10:02 AM #


  6. TEEBONICUS February 29, 2012 at 12:13 PM #

    Disagree. Ohio shouldn’t give the districts any choice at all. Ohio law should mandate that school property is no different than anywhere else in public, and that authorities should step out of the way and stop interfering with the people’s right to go armed anywhere they choose.

    • Insane Diego February 29, 2012 at 4:57 PM #

      +1.  What part of  ”inalienable right” and “shall not infringe” don’t we understand?

  7. Larry Arnold February 29, 2012 at 2:10 PM #

    We can imagine all kinds of things that could go wrong with concealed carry in schools. But we have to imagine them because they haven’t occurred anywhere concealed carry is practiced.

    We do not, unfortunately, have to imagine what happens in schools that are “gun-free.”

    • BillintheBlank March 1, 2012 at 7:51 AM #

      Good point, Larry, Thanks.

  8. IdahoMan February 29, 2012 at 4:19 PM #

    “I beg of my fellow citizens in Chardon: don’t follow the media’s frenzied lead on the solution to safer schools in Chardon.”


  9. cannedam February 29, 2012 at 4:44 PM #

    Your answer to address violence in schools is more violence?  It didn’t occur to you that years ago when community after community failed tax renewals that funded mental healthcare for the underserved in Ohio someone like TJ Lane would not be able to get the care necessary to help him overcome his depression and the rage that untreated depression can inspire in children?  What we do not need is a greater presence of guns. Ready access to guns is half the problem — if children could not easily access a gun, they couldn’t quickly end lives fueled by emotion that will burn out before the smoke clears.  Having teachers and guards in the schools armed with weapons is a recipe for greater carnage not less.  Prevention through early intervention programs, accessible mental healthcare for the underserved, and education aimed at destigmatizing mental illness will do far more in the long run than any reactionary grab-a-gun and kill-or-be-killed mentality ever will.  

    • Insane Diego February 29, 2012 at 4:56 PM #

      If by violence you mean being prepared to stop bad guys by force if necessary, why yes! 

      The facts actually teach us that we do indeed need the presence of more guns.  Recommended reading economist John Lott’s book “More Guns less Crime.”   

      The lack of ready access to firearms by the good, law abiding people is most certainly the problem. 

      End victim disarmament zones.

    • BillintheBlank March 1, 2012 at 7:50 AM #

      I appreciate your comments even if we disagree. I agree with your final comments about aholistic approach. Certainly there are mnay compnonts to proactively helping and heading off such tragedies. My point was simply that we should not act out of fear to further tie the hands of those we trust with our kids. In fact, we should give them the freedom to decide what is the best way to protect their kids. There is no data that I know of to support your claim that trained responders in the schools results in violence. See Utah, Israel, and others. Quite the opposite, the threat of meeting force with trained resistance is precisely what deters violence. We need look only at our brave local police force to see that each day. Not downplaying the critical role of tthe other aids you mentioned at all. Remember, I know the families and friends involved here. This is not a theoretical argument for me. These teachers took on the shooter with nothing but themselves because that’s all they were allowed to have.

  10. Tammy league March 3, 2012 at 10:41 AM #

    I am a bus driver plus a mother of a middle school student I think it is time that we do something to protect our kids this might be the answer

    • BillintheBlank March 3, 2012 at 1:16 PM #

      Wow! Hats off to you. Bus drivers have a tough assignment.


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