Good time for clear heads to prevail

There hasn’t been a shooting at a school for quite awhile, as far as we know. Being civilized means learning from others so let’s learn from the Pakistanis.

Back in December Pakistani Taliban militants attacked a government school killing 150 people, mostly students. Now teachers across Pakistan and Afghanistan are being trained to use guns. They’ve figured out that having police show up to fill out reports doesn’t bring back the dead.

Every school district in the USA should have voluntary firearms training for school employees. They should then be allowed to carry a gun if they want to. Carrying concealed would probably be best because, as an administrator in Harrold, Texas (where there is a program such as that) said, “uncertainty is our friend.”

Nobody would figure that armed teachers or custodians would eliminate violence at school. And many shooters have intended to kill themselves anyway. The object would be to limit losses as best as possible instead of putting students and teachers in a “gun free zone” like fish in a barrel.

A lot of bad decisions are made in the emotional aftermath of tragedy, that’s why I think a publicized armed school employee program should be considered now.

Here is the story that prompted this post:


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WILLIAM’s Journal

Schools Step Up Security in Wake of Pakistan Attack
Teachers Get Weapons Training; In Afghanistan, an International School Closes Indefinitely
A Pakistani teacher handles a rifle in January during a weapons-training session at a police center in Peshawar.
A Pakistani teacher handles a rifle in January during a weapons-training session at a police center in Peshawar. PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE/GETTY IMAGES
By QASIM NAUMAN in Islamabad, SAFDAR DAWAR in Peshawar, Pakistan, and MARGHERITA STANCATI in Kabul
Feb. 11, 2015 7:54 p.m. ET
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Rozia Altaf, a police officer in northwestern Pakistan, recalled the first time she took a group of schoolteachers to a shooting range for rifle and pistol instruction.

“They were so shy and scared of the weapons at first,” Ms. Altaf said. “But once they got over it, they did really well.”

For schools in Pakistan and Afghanistan, the lesson plan for the year focuses on the letter G: gates, guards and guns.

Since December, when Pakistani Taliban militants attacked an army-run school in the northwestern city of Peshawar, claiming the lives of 150 people, most of them children, schools around Pakistan have strengthened their security efforts. In neighboring Afghanistan, where schools have been attacked previously, a prominent U.S.-sponsored international school closed its doors.

The stepped-up safety measures underscore how much more vulnerable students, parents and teachers in the region feel after the gruesome attack in Peshawar.

Teachers attend a workshop on arms training in Peshawar. ENLARGE
Teachers attend a workshop on arms training in Peshawar. PHOTO: EUROPEAN PRESSPHOTO AGENCY
Paramilitary vehicles with machine guns patrol the main roads of Pakistan’s capital, Islamabad, around its major schools and colleges.

In Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, where Peshawar is located, police have been conducting two-day weapons-training sessions for teachers from schools and universities since late January. The program focuses on basic weapons handling and tactics to survive the first crucial minutes in case of an attack, police officials said.

“The strength [of the police force] available is like a drop in the ocean,” said Ms. Altaf, who heads a women’s police station in Peshawar. “We don’t have the strength needed to protect all the schools.”

Pakistani officials meanwhile have scrambled to restore the confidence of students and parents by mandating new security measures: raising school boundary walls by several feet, adding concertina wire and closed-circuit cameras and stationing guards.

Even so, local officials in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa have taken protective measures to the next level, allowing teachers to carry weapons on campus.

At least two large schools in the vicinity of the Army Public School now store weapons and ammunition on campus. School staff, trained and certified by police, will have access to the weapons in case of an attack.

Teachers of Frontier College for Women hold handguns during firearms training. ENLARGE
Teachers of Frontier College for Women hold handguns during firearms training. PHOTO: PPI/ZUMA PRESS
“We have talked to our students about this, about how some teachers can protect them if there is an attack,” said a principal of one of the Peshawar schools storing weapons on campus. “I think it helps them to know that they are not defenseless.”

Since 2007, hundreds of schools have been damaged or destroyed by Pakistani militant groups. Unlike the Army Public School, which was targeted because it enrolled the children of the country’s soldiers, most have been targeted by militants opposed to the education of girls and to what they call “Western” or nonreligious education, and most incidents have involved a small explosive device detonated at night, when there were no students present.

Afghanistan has experienced a similar problem. In just the past two days, three schools have been torched by insurgents in Nangarhar, Kunar and Farah provinces, according to Kabir Haqmal, a spokesman for the Afghan Ministry of Education. Further details weren’t immediately available.

No one has claimed responsibility for the attacks on schools in Afghanistan, though the Afghan Taliban, who share a similar ideology with the Pakistani Taliban but operate independently of it, have carried out similar attacks before. In response, police in parts of eastern Afghanistan are now on higher alert, according to Sediq Seddiqi, a spokesman for the ministry of interior.

Government officials in both countries say schools are a particularly soft target for militant groups, as they have lower levels of security compared with government and military installations.

Amid such heightened security concerns, the International School of Kabul said last month it would close until further notice.

“The recent attack on a school in a neighboring country has us particularly concerned,” the school said in a letter to parents dated January 22. “We feel it necessary to advise you to seek other options for your children’s education.”

Some 200 Afghan and expatriate families had children enrolled at the English-language school, which opened a decade ago with the support of the U.S. Agency for International Development at a time of growing international presence in the country.

Several parents said that after the attack in Peshawar, the school was open on and off until it closed for its winter break. It hasn’t re-opened since, and now parents are searching for alternatives.

A Pakistani army soldier stands guard outside the Army Public School, which was attacked by militants in Peshawar in December. ENLARGE
A Pakistani army soldier stands guard outside the Army Public School, which was attacked by militants in Peshawar in December. PHOTO: EUROPEAN PRESSPHOTO AGENCY
The school’s closure “is a setback for the country and for families who wanted a better education for their children,” said a man whose daughter was at the school.

He said he was saddened, but not surprised, with the decision. “Security in the region has changed,” he said. “If a school in Afghanistan gets attacked, there can be excuses. For instance: The school is linked to foreigners.”

In Peshawar, police have registered complaints against some school principals for allegedly failing to comply fully with the country’s new security requirements, a senior Pakistani police official said Tuesday.

“Our aim is not to embarrass them or arrest them, but to put pressure on them to improve security at their schools,” said Mian Saeed, the Peshawar police head of operations. Mr. Saeed said almost all of the 48 schools involved are privately owned. He didn’t identify any of the schools or principals.

At the Peshawar Public School and College, administrators who have made physical security enhancements are also seeking to add a layer of protection from another source: prayer.

“Allah is the ultimate protector,” said Mohammad Tayyab, the school’s principal. “We have identified certain verses of the Quran that we will ask the students to memorize. They will also be on laminated prayer cards that the students can keep in their pocket.”

Write to Margherita Stancati at margherita.stancati@wsj.com

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