Davenport roundtable discussion addresses school safety

Posted Online: Jan. 29, 2013, 7:29 pm
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By Eric Timmons, etimmons@qconline.com
School administrators are facing a tricky balancing act as they work to beef up security in the wake of the Sandy Hook shootings while trying to maintain the image of schools as community centers.

"We cannot afford to be as welcoming as we used to be," Scott Martin, director of operations at North Scott School District, said during a roundtable discussion on school safety in Davenport on Tuesday.

North Scott Superintendent Art Tate said there was a "delicate balance" between maintaining schools as community institutions while adding more security cameras, armed guards and locked doors.

U.S. Rep. Dave Loebsack, D-Mount Vernon, spoke at the roundtable and said there likely is no way to make schools "100 percent safe" from the kind of tragedy that struck at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., in December.

Parents, teachers, school counselors, a student, a school board member and school administrators spoke at the roundtable at Wood Intermediate School.

The discussion centered on mental health issues and ways to strengthen security systems at schools with few mentions of tougher gun controls.

"I firmly believe this is not a gun control issue," said Stephanie Eckhardt, a counselor at West High School in Davenport. "We need to look at mental health issues."

Ms. Eckhardt said students with mental health problems face waiting lists to see specialists that can run to three months. Teachers with large class sizes often are too busy to spot problems as they juggle large class sizes and demanding schedules.

Rep. Loebsack said there is a "huge shortage" of psychiatrists but in a difficult fiscal environment it is hard to get increased funding for mental health services, even if investments in those services could lead to savings later on.

Rep. Loebsack and U.S. Rep. Cheri Bustos, D-East Moline, both want to see what they call "comprehensive" legislation to address school safety. Both have been talking to school and law enforcement officials since the Sandy Hook shooting to gain their input.

Neither lawmaker has said if they will support proposed legislation from U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif, which would ban assault weapons and put limits on magazine capacities. President Obama also has called for a ban on assault weapons and limits on magazine capacities.

Rep. Loebsack said he does support limiting magazine capacities and stronger background checks and could support a ban on assault weapons depending on how that is defined. Rep. Bustos has so far declined to state her position on those issues.

At the roundtable in Davenport, Rep. Loebsack said a bill on school safety may not even make it to the House.

"There's a real question over whether anything can get accomplished on this front," he said.

Mr. Martin said it was a mistake to think a tragedy similar to the one at Sandy Hook could not happen in the Quad-Cities.

"One of our greatest issues is a general misperception that it will never happen here," he said. "It will happen, that's the way we have to think about it and work backward from there."


Local events heading

  Today is Thursday, July 31, the 212th day of 2014. There are 153 days left in the year.

1864 -- 150 years ago: A corps of surgeons now occupies the new hospital quarters at the Garrison Hospital on the Rock Island Arsenal. A fence has been installed to enclose the prison hospital.
1889 -- 125 years ago: B. Winter has let a contract to Christ Schreiner for a two story brick building with a double store front on the south side of 3rd Avenue just west of 17th Street. The estimated cost was $4,500.
1914 -- 100 years ago: Germany sent simultaneous ultimatums to Russia and France, demanding that Russia suspend mobilization within 12 hours and demanding that France inform Germany within 18 hours. In the case of war between Germany and Russia, France would remain neutral.
1939 -- 75 years ago: Civil service offices at the post office and the Rock Island Arsenal were swamped as more than 700 youths sought 15 machinist apprenticeships at the Arsenal.
1964 -- 50 years ago: Last night, American Legion Post 246 in Moline figuratively handed over the trousers to a female ex-Marine and petticoat rule began. Olga Swanson, of Moline, was installed as the first woman commander of the post .
1989 -- 25 years ago: The Illinois Quad City Civic Center captured the excitement and interest of a convention of auditorium managers this weekend in Reno, Nev. Bill Adams, civic center authority chairman, said the 10,000-seat arena planned for downtown Moline has caught the eye of construction firms, suppliers, management teams and concession groups.

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