SUGAR GROVE – Some parents freak out a bit when their children first head off to college, but in today’s world most parents and grandparents worry every day that they send their kids off to school in a world that can turn deadly in an instant.
Sugar Grove resident Bob Harkins is one of those grandparents. He has two children in the Kaneland School District, and he also knows a teacher’s responsibilities as he used to be one.
Harkins took the opportunity to address the Kaneland School Board during an emotional speech Feb. 26. He was so eager to share his thoughts that he even dropped the note cards he prepared and had to fetch them as they scattered on the floor which provided a brief reprieve before he tackled such a serious matter.
Disturbed by the most recent shooting tragedy at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., Harkins said that when the door closes on a classroom it is the teacher’s responsibility for the safety and well-being of their students and the teacher should not leave the class unattended.
He argued that arming teachers isn’t the solution, telling a hypothetical story about what likely would happen if a teacher were armed and seeking out a shooter.
“He’s facing the shooter who is firing a machine gun – I don’t care what you call it – and every bullet, and I’m assuming it’s a student, this heinous person, and he’s 100 percent accurate because he doesn’t give a damn where the bullets go,” he said. “And the teacher has a pistol.”
Harkins was the only one to speak during the public comment portion of the meeting, but rumblings on social media platforms noted that others were interested in voicing their concerns, but were unable to attend on short notice. On the same day of the meeting there was a hold-in place at Kaneland High School where soft lockdown procedures were instituted after a live .45-caliber bullet was found in a boy’s bathroom. A few days before this incident, a spent 9 mm shell was located in one of the school’s hallways.
Harkins asked the school board and administration to allow students to participate in the National School Walkout on March 14 beginning at 10 a.m. for 17 minutes, honoring every person killed in Parkland, Fla. Administrators, teachers, parents and allies have also been invited to participate.
He also reminded attendees that there are four million high school seniors across the country that are eligible to vote and asked for the high school to encourage them to sign up in November to vote.
Harkins concluded by citing the well-known lyrics of Simon & Garfunkel’s “The Sound of Silence,” in saying, “You do not know silence like a cancer grows. Hear my words that I might teach you, take my arms that I might reach you, but my words, like silent raindrops fell and echoed in the wells of silence.”
Prior to Harkins’s speech, Board President Teresa Witt announced that a discussion on “security procedures and the use of personnel and equipment to respond to an actual threat or a reasonably potential danger to the safety of employees, students, staff" was added to the evening’s executive session but action would not be taken at that time.
District 302 Superintendent Dr. Todd Leden also said that information about the recent safety concerns would be shared in a forthcoming letter.