School, safety and guns - Florida tragedy stirs discussion at Ely school board session

by Tom Coombe -

In the wake of a school shooting in Florida and amid growing national debate over both school safety and guns, Ely school officials waded into the discussion earlier this week.
Superintendent Kevin Abarahmson told board members that administrators are vigilant about safety and that the district focuses on building healthy relationships with students.
The district’s chief executive, however, also cautioned that “there’s nothing that will ever be 100 percent effective” in preventing a tragedy such as the one that resulted in the loss of 17 lives last month at a Florida high school.
Abrahamson stressed the importance of noticing and reporting warning signs.
“We have to make it OK where if you see something, say something,” said Abrahamson.
Both Abrahmson and school board chair Ray Marsnik said they were opposed to proposals, floated nationally and supported by President Trump, to allow some teachers to carry firearms in schools.
“Personally, I hope it never goes there,“ said Abrahamson.
Marsnik agreed and called the notion of armed teachers “a dangerous situation all around,” noting a recent incident in a Twin Cities school where a third-grader accidentally discharged a gun that was in the holster of a police officer.
School board member Heidi Mann also participated in the discussion and said she was happy that Ely Community Resource had a strong presence in the schools.
Marsnik called for more resources to be devoted to mental health while principal Megan Anderson, responding to a question posed by Mann, said administrators are open to hear concerns or worries of staff and students.
“That’s what we’re here for,” said Anderson. “We’re very approachable if there’s a concern.”
Abrahamson said that current district safety policies model those recommended by the Department of Homeland Security.
The district has conducted lockdown drills and has measures in place both for evacuation and to shelter in place.
The superintendent added “there’s not a month in a year that goes by where we are not discussing some aspect of student safety.”
Abrahamson also said it’s important to notice and act on warning signs and added “I think the best prevention we have is creating good healthy relationships with our students.“
He also conceded “there’s heightened sensitivity” over school safety and said he preferred the district make any changes after throrough review rather than “a kinee-jerk reaction.”
“There is no one size fits all,” said Abrahamson.
Following an incident in which a Florida gunman entered a high school and opened fire with an AR-15, gun control proposals have been in the forefront, with talk of a Mar. 14 national protest, in which students across the nation would walk out of their schools.
Mann asked how the Ely district would address the protest, but Abrahamson asked not to discuss the topic.
According to Marsnik the district has received advice, which was not disclosed Monday, about how to deal wth a student walkout.