Lessons from a Tragedy

Albany received some bad news last week when we learned that a local high school student was allegedly making bombs in his home, apparently with the intention of detonating them at his school.  I am deeply sympathetic with the parents of this young man, who now faces a difficult path.  I am also extremely grateful that someone stepped forward to report the threat and that our Police Department and other emergency responders handled the situation in a way that prevented physical harm to anyone.

My wife and I watched a late night news report a few days after the story broke where the announcer talked about the community being on edge as more details emerged.  I don’t know about anyone else, but rather than being on edge, I was feeling good that a disaster was averted with no injuries or loss of life.  The number of times students actually do widespread physical harm at school is very small; and, while it is sad to realize it could happen here, it is reassuring that responsible people did the right things to make sure it didn’t.  Albany remains a safe place for our children, in part because most of us care enough and are well enough informed to act when we see a threat.

Our School Resource Officer (SRO) program plays a role in helping to keep schools safe.  Early in my career, I had concerns about uniformed police officers patrolling schools; but I’ve learned that SROs do much more prevention than they do enforcement.  Students learn to trust the police through their SROs and they also learn about things like reporting dangerous situations.  The City and school district have maintained their commitment to this program through tough budget times, maintaining an outstanding partnership that serves our children well.

I have been impressed throughout the current ordeal with the teamwork among different jurisdictions to safely respond to the situation.  Law enforcement agencies from around the state worked with the school district and other emergency responders to make sure the school was safe and that there was no threat to neighbors in the homes where the explosives were found.  I am unaware of any problems with communications or operating procedures throughout the incident.  Superintendent Maria Delapoer also wrote an informative and reassuring letter to parents and the community at large to let everyone know that school would resume as normal after an eventful Memorial Day extended weekend.

The slight detour I encountered on my morning run this week as I dodged television reporters near the high school at 5:30 a.m. was a small price to pay for the knowledge that this story will probably have a short life.  I am most thankful that no students were harmed and we have some time to reflect on what more we might be able to do to make sure there is not a tragedy in the future.