"The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun" were the words of the NRA's Wayne LaPierre after the Sandy Hook school shooting.
And while violence is never encouraged in a school setting, the mere presence of a good guy can deter a bad guy from entering a school with a gun.
"We hire security guards to guard our banks, so why not do the same with our children?" inquired a citizen in a recent letter to the editor to the St. James Leader-Journal.
Well, someone was listening.
St. James R-1 School District Superintendent Joy Tucker recently announced that the district and the City of St. James are working together to hire a school resource officer (SRO), a commissioned police officer who will work exclusively within the school system.
"We're going to run an ad for a few weeks, start the interview process and see where it goes," said Tucker, who hopes to have the SRO in place by the end of the year.
Former St. James Police Chief Jim Anderson, the district's former SRO, said in a previous report that the three basic duties of an SRO are law enforcement, law-related counseling and law-related education. Those duties can range from dealing with student issues and giving advice to teaching drug awareness and road safety.
SROs can even assist school staff with issues like bullying.
Current Police Chief Ron Jones said the new SRO will be a St. James police officer, but his or her primary duties will be school-related, only filling in with the department while officers are on vacation and during extended school-vacation periods.
"The SRO will be somebody the kids can relate to, and he or she can build a good rapport not only with the faculty but with the students as well," Jones said. "If anything, it will give the kids a positive role model.
"In my opinion, we need an officer there to deal with school issues. With all the school-related issues that we have now, the SRO will be our first line of defense in case something like that should ever happen. The police presence may deter certain things, especially after school,” Jones said.
St. James School Board Vice President Casey Petty and board member Carl Behr agree.
"We are looking because I think it's beneficial to the schools," Behr said.
"Just the presence will help," Petty said. "I know we had one in the past. It was a big asset to the school, and I think it would be an asset again.”
City Administrator Jeff Davis confirmed that St. James will finance the SRO's vehicle, health insurance, training and equipment, while the school district will be responsible for paying the SRO's salary.
Page 2 of 2 - "The school wants to go forward with it," Davis said. "I believe Joy wanted to wait to see what would happen with the governor's veto of HB 253, so we kind of had to wait on that."
Tucker, who spent the last several weeks speaking against the override of Gov. Jay Nixon's veto of HB 253 - which would have cut a significant amount of money from the state education budget - was relieved when legislators failed to override the veto.
"We are paying the salary minus benefits," Tucker said, "but the salary amount will depend on experience. What we pay someone with 10 years of experience will be different from someone who is green.
"But I don't want to hire somebody for the sake of hiring somebody ... I want some technology piece to this ... They are going to have some kind of technology background, but the biggest part of this is the willingness to learn,” Tucker said.
Once a candidate is selected, he or she will be brought before the school board for final approval.