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Two recent events brought concerns about school safety much closer to home.

On Feb. 16, just a day after a school shooting in Parkland, Fla., claimed 17 lives, a ninth-grade student at R.A. Long brought an airsoft gun to school, prompting a 40-minute school lockdown.

According to police, neither the student nor her friend — both of whom handled the Smith & Wesson M&P 40 replica — had made any threats to the school.

And just this week, a 15-year-old student at Toutle Lake High School was removed from school grounds after some classmates overhead him saying he wanted to shoot up the school.

No doubt, both of these incidents struck terror into parents’ hearts, even if for just a moment. So perhaps these words from school district spokeswoman Sandy Catt following the R.A. Long incident weren’t all that reassuring: “In regards to security when school resumes on Wednesday, the usual protocol will be in place — no extra precautions.”

While we’re sure that our local school districts are doing their best to ensure that students have a safe and secure learning environment, we wonder if there isn’t still more work to be done.

Now is the time for reviewing those security measures. Are the school districts coordinating and engaging with other schools to learn of new ideas and best practices? Is there anything new or different that schools could be doing now or working on implementing?

How are school districts working with local law enforcement to increase school safety? Are they connecting with parents and students to discuss what to do in an emergency?

We hope so. But at the very least it’s worth taking another look, to go back to the drawing board to see what else can be done.

Last Saturday, TDN reporter Alex Bruell wrote about about how well the R.A. Long students handled the lockdown. School psychologist Shauna Gregory said, “Everybody just went straight into drill mode. They were shaken. I saw kids trembling, and I saw kids with tears, but they were calm.”

This was bittersweet news. We’re proud the R.A. Long students kept their cool, but they shouldn’t have occasion to do so. It just shows this is becoming an all too common occurrence.

We hope the kind of violence that rocked Parkland — and too many other places — never touches our area. We want to make sure our schools and law enforcement are doing everything they can to make sure it doesn’t.

Speak now or pay the toll

Editor’s note: Today’s editorial originally appeared in The Columbian. Editorial content from other publications and authors is provided to give readers a sampling of regional and national opinion and does not necessarily reflect positions endorsed by the Editorial Board of The Daily News.

As Oregon officials consider placing tolls along Interstate 5 and Interstate 205, Southwest Washington residents must make their voices heard. Silence is not an option regarding an issue that could have a large financial impact upon this region while defining transportation in the area for years to come.

Undoubtedly, traffic is a pressing problem throughout the metro area. Congestion continues to increase commute times, increase delivery and freight costs, and increase frustration as drivers sit in traffic. “Rush hour” on Interstate 5 southbound through north Portland is designated as being from 7:45 a.m. to 9:45 a.m. and 11 a.m. to 6:15 p.m. In other words, there’s not much rushing taking place.

Because of that, the Oregon Legislature last year passed a bill instructing a committee to look at adding tolls along the two freeways that connect Vancouver with Portland. The Portland Region Value Pricing Advisory Committee is considering options for reducing congestion along the interstates.

While we recognize the need for improvements, we are skeptical. “Value pricing” and “congestion pricing” are euphemisms for tolls, and any tolls around the north end of the freeways would inequitably impact Washington residents. An estimated 70,000 Clark County residents work in Oregon, requiring two daily trips across the I-5 or I-205 bridge. In addition, many who work on this side of the Columbia River still make frequent trips to Portland for entertainment, dining or business purposes.

Because of that, it is essential for the advisory committee to fully understand the impact their proposals would have upon Clark County. In a meeting Wednesday with The Columbian’s Editorial Board, five representatives from the committee and the Oregon Department of Transportation were unable to say what percentage of bridge crossings are made by Washington residents. That would seem to be a fundamental question when considering which parts of the freeways should be tolled. Washington has three representatives on the 25-person advisory committee, but local residents have no say in electing the legislators who have pursued this proposal.

Because of this, any plans must provide demonstrable benefits for Washington drivers. Congestion mitigation between Vancouver and downtown Portland, or through the Rose Quarter area, would benefit local drivers. But if money collected at the northern end of the freeways goes for projects south of Portland, it would provide minimal relief for Clark County residents.

We are not reflexively opposed to tolls. As committee co-chair Sean O’Hollaren said: “It’s a user-fee system. If you’re putting wear and tear on the road and on the bridges, those are the people who pay for it.”

Any tolls along I-5 or I-205 will require federal approval because they are interstate freeways, a fact that adds to our skepticism. If the primary goal was congestion mitigation, there would be equal focus upon congested highways 26 and 217 to the west of Portland, rather than only areas that include a high percentage of Washington drivers.

But maybe we are just being overly skeptical. What matters is the voices of Southwest Washington residents; they should make those voices heard.


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