Opinion

Maps a boon for schools

The deadly shooting at Foss High School in Tacoma has South Sound officials

re-evaluating their emergency preparation procedures. Parents and students can take some comfort in the fact that all of the high schools in Thurston County are among the 460 statewide that have been "mapped" by the Washington Association of Sheriffs and Police Chiefs. By using a password-protected Web site, law enforcement officials and emergency responders can click onto a blueprint of how to respond to a crisis. The blueprint gives detailed descriptions of each school and how best to respond to a fire, shooting, evacuation order or other emergency. Each school's plan includes photos and contact information for administrators, floor plans, school photos, hazardous-materials information and a list of any regional hazards near the school. In addition, local law enforcement officers have been trained in "active shooter" procedures that teaches them how to isolate an armed suspect. The Columbine High School shootings in 1999 showed the futility of law enforcement officers simply sealing off the building while the shooters were still inside with students. Let's hope that South Sound officers never have to use the training or the school mapping. But it's reassuring to know the resources are there.

The high school shooting in Tacoma once again shines the public spotlight on weapons on school property. It's a frightening combination. A state report shows that Thurston County students brought twice as many weapons to school during the 2005-06 school year compared with the previous one, and more than in any other year in the past seven. That's a trend going in the wrong direction. In Thurston County alone, students brought 119 weapons to school in the 2005-06 school year - an increase of 58 weapon violations from the previous year. The average over the past seven years has been 85 weapon incidents, according to a report by the state Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction. Knives were the most common weapon brought onto campuses. In many cases, the weapons were BB guns or paintball guns. Statewide, there were 3,313 weapon incidents in the 2005-06 school year. Those are just known cases. Schools are no places for weapons of any kind.

More than 150 years ago, Mother Joseph of the Sacred Heart and five Sisters of Providence arrived in the Pacific Northwest to establish schools and hospitals. Providence St. Peter Hospital, a 390-bed facility founded in 1887, is part of the legacy of the sisters from Montreal, Canada. In celebration of the 150th anniversary of their arrival, the hospital used one week of proceeds from the hospital's cafeteria to donate to charity. Hospital employees and visitors were informed of the hospital's generosity via signs posted at the medical facility. When the receipts were tallied, the hospital donated a total of $25,500 divided as follows: $12,500 to the Olympia Union Gospel Mission's Community Dental Clinic; $6,500 to the Thurston County Food Bank; and $6,500 to YWCA's Other Bank, which provides toiletries and personal care items. "Over the years, the Sisters of Providence have played an important role in the lives of Olympia area residents," said Jim Leonard, Providence St. Peter Hospital administrator. "This was just one way for us to honor their contributions and continue their mission of caring for all, with special concern for the poor and vulnerable." What a generous donation.

No entity of government is perfect. Human error is a fact of life. But some mistakes simply hurt more than others. That's certainly the case for the family members of 75 military officers killed in action. Imagine their shock when they received a recruitment letter for their loved one. Army officials are blaming a computer mix-up for recruitment letters sent to the families of 275 officers killed or wounded in Iraq. "Every Army leader is just sick that this happened," said Gen. Richard Cody, the Army's vice chief of staff. "This is an inexcusable mistake. Five years into this war, the Army can do better than this - and we will." Let's hope so.

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