Strong words spoken by the Anderson County District Four Superintendent, “One life lost is one life too many,” said Joanne Avery.
She said her district has been through tragedy and come out stronger because of it, but amidst nationwide talks about gun violence she has opinions about what she wants to see in her schools.
“When you’ve been in a situation and you’ve heard gunfire and you’ve experienced the things around it, you carry that memory and that experience,” Avery said.
They may be Townville Strong, but they’ll never forget. Avery said on the outside, it may look like things are back to normal in Townville, but she said there’s a weight everyone in that school carries with them.
“There’s not a price tag on a student’s life and it shouldn’t matter if it’s one or twenty,” said the superintendent. “I mean we need to fix the problem and we’re not looking at solutions to fix the problem.”
That’s why she’s using her voice and experience to fuel change. Avery said she believes it’s not about defending the problem with things like metal detectors. Instead, it’s about preventing the problem. She wants that to start with mental health professionals inside the schools, counselors who can provide full time services to students who may be a threat to themselves and to others.
“Part of that is requiring help because right now we can identify and we can report but that doesn’t mean that the student will receive services because the parent has to authorize,” Avery said.
The superintendent said it’s a complex issue with lots of opportunity for discussion, but she said one thing she won’t support is arming her teachers. She believes that opens the door to more issues.
“Being a victim of a shooting, if we’d had concealed weapons, how would a teacher know whether to respond to a shooter and leave their students unprotected,” Avery asked. “How do you make that choice?”
She said that’s her first question: What becomes a teacher’s role at that point? Is it to stay and protect or leave and guard?
Her next concern is how authorities would determine who the intruder is and who’s an armed teacher.
“I can tell you when they go through the building and clear it and make sure there’s not another intruder, they come through in forces,” Avery said. “They are knocking on doors and pulling guns out at teachers and students.”
Also on her list of concerns is the possibility of a gun dislodging or being used when there’s not a threat.
“In Georgia, we saw a teacher used a weapon in a non-intruder situation,” the superintendent said.
It’s all those reasons and so much more at Townville. Avery said they can’t have balloons inside because if they pop it reminds the young students of the shots that rang out that day. She said having guns inside those walls would constantly bring up painful memories.
“As someone who has been through the situation, that is not going to help with their healing and recovery,” Avery said.
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