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Wednesday, Jan 23 2013 11:00 PM

Taft High needs solutions, not parental anger

By The Bakersfield Californian

It's understandable that parents of students at Taft Union High School would be concerned and want answers about the Jan. 10 shooting at their school. It's especially understandable that they should want answers about unconfirmed rumors that the shooter had been suspended but allowed back in the classroom after drawing up a hit list. But venting their fury at administrators and implying that blame for the incident lies solely with them, as some parents did at a meeting Tuesday night, is not a good start for the work that lies ahead for that community.

For one thing, no one knows the facts yet. As frustrating as it is that school officials can't talk about whether the student shooter was suspended and let back into school, the fact is those officials are just following the law. With a criminal investigation ongoing and existing privacy laws regarding minor students throwing up roadblocks, officials simply can't divulge certain details.

But they should be willing to discuss hypotheticals: What policies are in place currently to cover such events? Going forward, how would they handle the discovery of a student's hit list? The paucity of details thus far have parents presuming the worst: that school officials were lax in their handling of the situation.

The only way forward for Taft is to work together to make sure it doesn't happen again. If school is ever to feel safe again for Taft students, it will be largely the result of administrative policies and actions that make parents and students feel confident.

The school district is looking for input from law enforcement, mental health professionals, parents and community leaders on how to make school safer. That will happen in future forums like the one held this week.

This is an opportunity for parents to advocate for such things as a zero-tolerance policy on certain issues -- mandatory, permanent expulsion for explicit threats involving guns or other weapons, including those in hit lists.

Ultimate blame for the incident lies with the alleged shooter. It's unclear at this point what steps the school could have taken, if any, to prevent the situation. For now, parents need to set their anger aside and funnel that energy into constructive ideas that might prevent similar situations in the future. Anger is easy; solutions are not.

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