In the last couple of weeks, three students have walked into Tates Creek High School with guns.
The news presents a picture that will frighten any parent with a child in the school.
But what should disturb everyone in this community is that all three students said they had the guns to deal with things outside school, some danger they feared in the community where they live.
This means that teenagers, one 18 and two younger, had access to guns that they felt they needed to stay safe.
“I’ve seen the neighborhood change,” in his 27 years in the area, Tates Creek Principal Sam Meaux said at a press conference Monday. Those changes inevitably arrive at school, he said. “A school is just a gathering place for the community, so we deal with the issues of the community.”
After the first two incidents, Tates Creek introduced a policy of carefully searching any student brought in to school by police for truancy. That’s what led to the discovery of the gun in the third incident on Monday.
Superintendent Manny Caulk has acted quickly to tighten security, appointing a team of district officials to develop a plan for random metal-detector checks in all Fayette County high schools by, at the latest, this coming Monday. The district must assure these checks are truly random and don’t target any particular group.
But the larger problem exists beyond the walls of the schools.
“We have to figure out what it is that is making them feel unsafe ... and we’ve got to do as much as we can to offset that,” Fayette County Schools law-enforcement director Lawrence Weathers said at the same press conference where Meaux spoke. Weathers joined the district this summer after more than 25 years with the Lexington Police Department.
Caulk, in a letter to district families Tuesday, struck the same theme. “Clearly, there are children and families in crisis,” in the district, he said. “We must build a network of support for them,” to address problems before they show up in the schools.
And we must figure out how to keep guns out of the hands of children.
These are not isolated incidents. Last year, as she sentenced a teenager in the shooting death of Antonio Franklin, Fayette Circuit Judge Pamela Goodwine’s frustration was evident. “You are 16,” she said, “guns do not belong in the hands of 16 year olds.” She’s right.