Keeping our students safe means dedication to task
by Rebecca Johnston
Columnist
August 24, 2013 11:45 PM | 1772 views | 0 0 comments | 34 34 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Rebecca Johnston<br>Cherokee Tribune Managing Editor
Rebecca Johnston
Cherokee Tribune Managing Editor
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The Canton of my childhood years growing up was such a safe place.

No one would have even imagined that someone might break into a school with a gun and begin shooting children or teachers.

But now that possibility is something that every educator and parent has to keep in the back of their minds as school starts back.

Fortunately, in incidents in DeKalb and Cherokee counties this week, those in charge of the safety of our children have proven themselves up to the task.

Teachers and school office workers have a plan, and when our school folks have a plan, it usually works.

I remember fire drills at Canton Elementary. We had classes in the two buildings on Academy Street when I was a student there in first through eighth grade.

Cherokee High was already open and only the grammar school remained in the two old buildings across the street from each other.

When I say old, I really mean old. One of those buildings turns 100 years old soon, and even when I went there, they seemed ancient.

The schools were constructed of brick, but the inside floors and walls seemed like old kindling ready to go up in flames if anything combustible hit them.

The floors were wide boards that looked like they were oiled when they were cleaned.

Several times during the year, the class bells would ring and the teachers would know to line us up and get us out of the buildings and safely onto the street and along the sidewalks until the all clear was given.

Class sizes were larger back then and the buildings were two stories, which meant a longer walk to an exit and more rowdy youngsters to manage.

But like a well-oiled machine, we knew what to do, and teachers knew how to get us to do it.

These days, students know the drill if there is a tornado, as well as in a fire emergency. They know all about stop, drop and roll.

But now, they are ready to face security emergencies as well. Teachers are prepared to get students into a locked room if the school is threatened, or to evacuate as they did in DeKalb last week.

School crossing guards are on the alert and schools are prepared to lock down if a suspicious person is in the area, as happened at some Cherokee County schools this week.

I am not an expert on the matter, and, fortunately, I don’t have to be, because our dedicated public safety workers are doing the work for us.

This week, law enforcement and fire personnel from all over north Georgia came to Cherokee County to get more training in what to do in an emergency such as DeKalb had this week.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation praised Cherokee County for its readiness plan. That doesn’t surprise me.

As a community, we always pull together.

But it takes special heroes, too.

The woman who talked with the man with the gun at the DeKalb school was a real hero. She gave the credit to God, but she was the divine instrument who turned the man away from his plan to shoot police officers with her courage and her conviction.

She was ready to sacrifice everything for those children in that school.

And, closer to home, crossing guards chased down a man to make sure a school here was safe.

That is what it takes nowadays, to be ready to make the ultimate sacrifice, and as someone said, that is a sad commentary on the times in which we live.

I never felt called to be a teacher, and that is what it is, a true calling. I knew I could not do the job those men and women do each day in instructing our children and helping to turn them into productive adults. Now it is even tougher.

We all know our teachers work hard, and meet even more challenges in this changing world we find ourselves in.

Sure, I long for those simple days when everyone knew everyone in Canton, when parents could let their children play outside until suppertime, with no fear that something bad might happen.

Times when we all ran and played at recess, when we could walk around town to the movies and the drugstore.

Those days when children were safe at school, and parents never gave it a thought. When walking to the bus stop was a fun part of the day for a kid.

But they will not come again.

Even so, we can all rest assured that our educators are doing everything in their power to keep our children safe, and our law enforcement officers and firefighters are adding their part.

And that means a lot.

Rebecca Johnston is managing editor of The Cherokee Tribune.
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