SPRINGFIELD, Ore. (KMTR) -- While school safety is on the minds of many parents and teachers after last week's shooting in Newtown, Connecticut, the issue of whether or not teachers should be armed has also risen and now Springfield Police Chief Jerry Smith is sharing his thoughts on the idea.
NewsSource 16 spoke with Chief Smith about the idea on Wednesday, December 19. Smith says the idea of teachers having guns in the classroom is really a community conversation. Smith says it's his job to work with and support whichever direction the Springfield community and Springfield Public Schools decide to go.
However, Chief Smith says with the safety debate it's important to realize that there is no catch-all solution.
Smith told NewsSource 16 on Wednesday that keeping kids safe in schools is a multi-pronged effort. He says there are several issues that will be addressed in the coming months, including firearms, security and mental health issues.
According to Smith, one of the biggest things the community can do is to increase awareness of what's going on in children's and teens' lives and to report any perceived problems. Chief Smith says schools and police cannot function properly without the information they get from the public.
Particularly with mental health issues, Chief Smith says it's important that his department has information about what problems people may be dealing with and any previous threats of harm.
Chief Smith says out of Newtown, he sees parallels with the Thurston High School shooting fourteen years ago.
"Parents and families are trying to deal with it internally and nobody's being notified and here's a kid [the Connecticut shooter] who's got mental issues, as did Kip, who both had access to firearms,” says Chief Smith. “Public policy is going to address some of the issues, because they're not going to address everything.”
No matter what happens with school security, Chief Smith says there will always be a risk. His department tries to work with Springfield Schools to minimize that risk and prevent problems before they happen. Primarily, they try to do that through School Resource Officers (SROs).
Springfield Schools has two full-time School Resource Officers. The officers are based at Thurston High School and Springfield High School.
Chief Smith says if anything, he encourages the debate about school safety to continue.
“If anything good comes out of this, I hope that Newtown, Connecticut isn't forgotten,” says Chief Smith.
Chief Smith says in national media coverage of the shooting, it has become apparent to him that Thurston's tragedy has been forgotten. Smith says he has yet to see or hear about any national media sources discussing the similarities between the two events.