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