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Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Focus on lessons learned, not lingering anger

Thursday, December 20, 2012

One massacre far to our north, one spoken threat in a Shelbyville school -- and major changes to our mindset.

Within one week, steps are being taken toward possibly placing police officers in every Bedford County school, even elementary schools. Talk toward other security measures is beginning.

Anger has been directed by some toward leaders at Thomas Magnet School and the school system for not notifying parents; at law enforcement for allowing Tyrone Watts, accused of making threats at TMS, to be released on bond; at the media for not reporting it sooner or for reporting it at all.

Those feelings are understandable -- very understandable -- but in this sensitive situation calmness and clear thinking, rather than anger and verbal attacks, must prevail. No one intentionally misled parents or left students in danger.

Flawed as it may seem at this time, the system worked. No one was hurt. Police were called. A suspect is in jail. And stricter security measures are being implemented.

The TMS incident may well have been a wakeup call for Bedford County. For many years, we as a county and city have thought, "It can't happen here."

The Newtown, Conn. school shootings happened in a small, peaceful city full of good people -- and one really bad person. We're a small, relatively peaceful city full of good people. But we can't assume everyone's good. Shelbyville police reports, which in the past year have contained an escalating number of accounts of domestic disputes in which one partner threatened to kill the other, prove otherwise.

Lack of TMS parent notification, and an initial seemingly light charge with a relatively low bond, weren't cases of uncaring attitudes or incompetence. At the very worst, it was a little bit of disorganization within a school system between permanent leaders.

More likely, it was simply a little bit of complacency -- and a feeling among those immediately involved that the police had been brought in, an arrest had been made, charges had been filed and everyone was safe and would remain so. Many of us, if directly involved in the decision-making process, might have felt that way at the time.

They've learned - and we've learned - from the experience.

But, unfortunately, one more chunk of our collective small-town innocence has been split off, likely never to return.

-- David Melson is a Times-Gazette copy editor. Semd comments to dmelson@t-g.com.

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