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School leaders and police personnel have taken decisive action to improve school safety

Whatever side of the school safety/gun control debate you happen to land on, just about anyone would agree that despite the polarized political views people hold, keeping children out of harm's way is ultimately the No. 1 goal.

And while it remains to be seen in the days, months and years that follow how this whole debate and the laws shake out, one thing residents in Crook County can be sure of is that local school leaders are not waiting around to take action on making the schools as safe as they can.

Within a month of the Parkland Florida school shooting, a school board meeting provided the forum to discuss the sobering but necessary topic. School board members scrutinized the current policies, procedures and building safeguards not only to reassure people that work has been done to keep kids safe, but to look for potential deficiencies and ways to further tighten up security.

This meeting segued into another session just last week where leaders took the effort a step further and began carving out dollars — nearly half a million when it was all said and done — to potentially pay for more building improvements, staff training for identifying threats, and even generating a more positive school culture to hopefully reduce the likelihood that a student would consider a violent act.

This meeting unfortunately followed a widely publicized threat of violence planned for this past Monday that was found in a Crook County High School restroom. While the threat — a violent message apparently scrawled on a restroom stall — was determined not to be credible, it put students, parents and many community members on edge. It's one thing to see an act of school violence in the news that took place across the county, but quite another to process the fact that somebody would threaten to do the same in your own community.

Credit to the police department and the school district for the action they took. They could have kept it quiet, but the district posted a letter on its Facebook page right away and emailed high school student parents. Once the threat was determined to not be credible, the police could have quietly reprimanded the student involved or taken them into custody and taken no further action. Instead, they decided to not only increase police presence at the high school on Monday, but every other Prineville school as well.

Quite likely in the end all of this extra action in the name of extreme caution will prove to be unnecessary and nobody ever even considers or attempts to carry out a violent act in Crook County schools. But if there is ever a time where "better safe than sorry" is appropriate, this is it, and the school district and police department have taken the right steps so far and seem poised to do so going forward.

What a half-million dollars of school budget funds for school safety will do remains to be seen and whether or not the police department can afford to add more school resource officers — as some parents have requested — is yet to be determined. But if the past couple months have shown us anything, it's that the school district, the local police and parents of students are willing to provide the ideas, money and energy to make the children behind Crook County school doors as safe as possible.

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