BARTLESVILLE, Okla. - The superintendent of the Bartlesville Public Schools is one of 22 members of the Oklahoma Commission on School Safety, and he says he is ready to share his thoughts at the commission's first meeting in a week.
Superintendent Gary Quinn, who spoke to 2NEWS one month after the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Conn., says there is a sense of urgency around examining the current safety practices in place for Oklahoma schools.
"There's a lot of urgency right now, a lot of concern about school safety and this is an ideal time for us to have this type of discussion," he said.
The one month anniversary of the tragedy in Newtown holds a different kind of importance for Bartlesville Public Schools. It was on that day that police say 18-year-old Sammie Chavez, a Bartlesville High School student, planned to shoot and kill his peers and set booby traps to entrances at the school to kill responding police officers.
The goal of the commission is to study security practices and provide suggestions to the state legislature about how those practices can be changed or improved.
One of the questions raised in the debate over how to better protect schools in Oklahoma and around the country is whether to arm teachers and principals with firearms.
Quinn says he is against that idea.
"We want our teachers to be students' instructors, students' friends, someone that's helping to guide them and direct them and we don't want them to have to be the ones that's armed and ready to have to protect them in that way," he said.
Quinn also says there is a fine line between an atmosphere of perceived safety and a bunker mentality. He says arming every teacher could have a reverse effect on students and create fear as opposed to a feeling of protection.
The superintendent also raises questions about hiring armed security guards for every school and providing upgrades like bulletproof glass. He says cash-strapped schools won't have the budget to cover those additional costs.
Instead, Quinn proposes improving on already existing procedures like monitoring who enters and exits buildings and how many entrances are available to the public.
"Some of them are reducing the number of doors that we have adults come in. Also the number of doors where students enter and exit during the school day. So, some of them are just small procedures that, 'Hey, that makes sense. Let's implement those,'" Quinn said.
Bartlesville High School avoided a tragedy one month ago because a student alerted their assistant principal to Chavez's plot. Quinn says building trust between the student and staff will be one part of his message. He says the "snitches get stitches" rule can no longer apply. He calls recognizing threats and reporting them a civic duty.
"We know their names, we know them. We tell them, 'Hello,' as they come in the door. We visit with them about their activities they had in the evening," he said. "You know, as you develop that kind of relationship, then you have a chance then for them to feel comfortable coming to you with something that could be -- something that you need to know."
"If we have them willing to come to us and to share with us things that they've heard and they've seen and as long as we're supportive and do something about it, then I think we'll have that relationship with our students," he said.
The commission's first meeting is Jan. 22.
They hope to have their recommendations to the legislature by March 1.
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