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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Opinion >  Editorial

Editorial: Shootings emphasize Spokane schools’ need for officers

The temptation after a school shooting is to apply solutions that would prevent a reoccurrence of an identical event. But no two shootings are alike. According to the information released thus far about Friday’s tragedy at Marysville-Pilchuck High School, that incident would have been nearly impossible to predict.

The shooter, freshman Jaylen Fryberg, targeted cousins and friends before killing himself. It wasn’t the random spree we’ve come to expect. Fryberg was popular and connected to family and his tribal community, unlike the loners and malcontents in previous shootings.

If anything, this makes the incident even more troubling, and it should give pause to anyone who thinks they have an obvious solution.

The difficulty developing a pre-shooting profile underscores the responsibility school districts have to continually review security procedures. After the mass shooting at a Newtown, Connecticut, elementary school, the Spokane Public Schools board decided it would be wise to arm its school resource officers. Other districts contract with a police agency, but SPS wanted employees dedicated solely to schools, so they wouldn’t be sent off campus on other law enforcement calls.

As the 2013-14 school year began, the district announced that it would like to have armed resource officers in place by January. When it became apparent that timeline was too ambitious, we editorialized that it was OK to take it slow and get it right. Introducing guns represents a significant change of work conditions for the 14 resource officers, and those details needed to be worked out with the union.

But a new school year is underway, the negotiations are still dragging on and the only armed officer is stationed at the district’s downtown office, not among students. According to a Sept. 25 Spokesman-Review article, labor talks are at a standstill. On Monday, district spokesman Kevin Morrison said there was no progress to report.

That’s not to say other changes haven’t been made. Schools have installed better cameras and locks. Procedures for campus visitors have tightened up. As part of a pilot project, some schools are experimenting with buzz-in systems.

But we wonder how many more shootings have to occur before urgency is introduced into the labor negotiations. We’ve supported the district’s plan because school resource officers already have relationships with students that would make them better eyes and ears than a traditional police officer patrolling a campus. School officers would get continual training from the Spokane Police Department.

Superintendent Shelley Redinger has said if an agreement can’t be reached in a reasonable amount of time the district may have to scratch the idea and turn to a law enforcement contract.

So the question now is, what is reasonable?

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