Safe Schools Summit

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Scott Jefferson is a Wood County sheriff's deputy. He is also the prevention resource officer at Williamstown High School, with the responsibility of keeping that school safe.

And he did, in September of 2011, when word came through social media, of a student's apparent intent to shoot 100 of his classmates.

"They called me after midnight one night and advised me of it," Jefferson recalled, "and I went to my supervisors and got a search warrant, stopped the incident from occurring, and never disrupted the school day the next day."

"All educators have to think about things like that sometimes," said Randy Edge, the school's assistant principal, "and the resource officer has helped to keep Williamstown High School safe."

Participants heard from a former employee of Sandy Hook Elementary and one-time West Virginia resident, who remembered the victims of December's shooting, as well as the outpouring of support and emotion from total strangers who responded.

"When you went into a deli to buy your coffee, somebody from California decided they would pay for everybody's coffee that day," said Lisa Petrovich, a resident of Newtown, Connecticut for 18 years, "and the next day, it was everybody's sandwiches."

In this day of discussion, the focus wasn't as much on weapons, as much as it was on the causes of school violence. A retired army officer, whose involvement with school violence began with the 1998 Jonesboro, Arkansas massacre, says those exposed to media violence, including video games, are getting younger and younger.

"The research is clear, adults can handle this stuff," Lt. Colonel Dave Grossman told the audience. "But we inflict the sickest movies and the sickest video games on children. And the lesson we teach them from the youngest days is to take reward and pleasure from human death and suffering."

The funding for the resource officer positions in Wood County come from a series of grants. Jefferson says those grants have been trimmed somewhat during the past few years, and fears they could be eliminated altogether.

"And it's going down again this year," he said. "And it's been going down, from the paperwork I've been given, since 2010, approximately $1 million in the state of West Virginia alone. That's ridiculous."

Lt. Col. Grossman says preparing for school violence should be as high a priority as preparing a school for a fire, something schools have done successfully. Because it is never certain where the next Sandy Hook, Columbine or Virginia Tech might happen.

For more on the West Virginia Safe Schools organization, click on the "Hot Button" on our home page.

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