Editorial: Focus on school security, not ‘shooting’ semantics


“It just so happened to be in the parking lot of a school,” Palm Beach County Sheriff Ric Bradshaw declared, “but it could have happened anywhere.”

It was “not a school-shooting situation,” he insisted.

It really doesn’t matter what we call it. What matters is how we respond.

Two men remain hospitalized after a Friday night shooting in Palm Beach County. No one has been arrested. Right now, the only thing that makes this event noteworthy is the fact that it happened just outside the stadium seating area at Palm Beach Central High School in Wellington during the fourth quarter of a football game.

RELATED: Woman: I witnessed shooting at football game in Wellington, ‘couldn’t believe it’

Bradshaw, School Police Chief Frank Kitzerow and all local law enforcement should treat this as a dry run for the worst-case scenario. Because a debate over semantics seems pointless when, instead of striking their intended targets, one stray bullet could have hit a student or parent and changed the entire narrative of this story.

We dodged a bullet both literally and figuratively.

“Parkland is real to me now,” one frightened mother told WPTV-NewsChannel 5 Friday night, referring to the tragic Feb. 14 shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School that killed 17 students and staff members.

School police and other officials, as well as sheriff’s deputies, are to be commended for their quick response to the shooting and subsequent pandemonium that ensued among the crowd of spectators. While one Wellington mother was unfortunately trampled in the stampede, things could have certainly been worse.

Kitzerow said seven school police officers were on duty for the preseason event, as were about 20 district administrators. “When the school police officers heard the shots being fired, they immediately moved to where that was happening. The first officer was at that scene in a matter of seconds,” he said. “And that escalated as the minutes went by. By 10 to 15 minutes you had quite a large contingent.”

Most important, he added, “Your children are safe. Come to school on Monday. We will be there.”

School District Superintendent Donald Fennoy was also right to move quickly to consider changes that can improve the district’s response.

Working along with sheriff’s officials, the district is rewriting the security playbook this week to among other things, incorporate the area outside of a football stadium. Adjustments also include Saturday morning kickoffs for some of the biggest games of the season and an hour earlier starts at 6 p.m. rather than 7 p.m. for others.

But one quick adjustment showed officials the risk of not also being thoughtful in their zeal to make changes aimed at placating parents and students.

As the Post’s Sonja Isger reported, the district was forced on Monday to push back to later in the afternoon its first two Saturday morning football games after realizing that hundreds of students would be sitting for the SAT college entrance exams this Saturday. Apparently, that number included 200 at Dwyer High alone.

It was a bit of an embarrassing turn for school district leaders who only Sunday night had announced the game schedule change among other measures in quick response to Friday night’s shooting. But a good reminder of the complexities of managing a school district of 195,000 students — and tens of thousands more parents, teachers, administrators and other staff.

Though no student was killed, or apparently targeted, the shooting is still likely to resonate beyond our county. As it should.

Even before the shooting, incoming Senate President Bill Galvano last Tuesday said he wants state lawmakers to think about expanding the school-safety efforts approved during the 2018 legislative session after the Stoneman Douglas massacre.

In a series of tweets, the Bradenton Republican implored senators to look more at school safety.

“As incoming Senate President of the third-largest state in the nation — a bellwether for others — I am committed to making sure our re-examination of school safety policies does not end here,” Galvano tweeted. “Some issues simply must transcend politics. The safety of our children is one.”

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Agreed. And Palm Beach Central Principal Darren Edgecomb is correct that that means “preparing for games like (schools) never did before.” That includes other big sporting events that aren’t heavily covered now, like basketball games.

“We plan officers, we assign locations. We were thinking all those thing are in place. But we hadn’t sat in a conference room and said, ‘What are we going to do if someone starts shooting?’ “

To start answering that question, first stop quibbling over what is a school shooting.




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