Recent editorials from Tennessee newspapers:


Feb. 28

The Kingsport Times-News defends students' right to participate in walkout:

Order and discipline are essential in our schools, and it is the rare occasion that they are to be bypassed by something of greater importance to students, educators and the community. A walkout by several dozen Dobyns-Bennett High School students to demand their safety be a priority was one of those times.

To a degree, young minds across the country are being co-opted for political purposes, but there's no denying the passion and deep concern students have about whether they are at risk in their second homes.

One of the D-B students said they were cautioned against the walkout. "They (school officials) told us we were being childish and to stop playing around," the student said, adding that she wants to "make the government put metal detectors in our schools."

The students said they disregarded a warning from the principal in staging the walkout to bring attention to what they called safety and security problems at the 2,200-student school in light of the recent shooting that killed 17 at a Florida high school.

Across the country there's an alleged effort by gun opponents to use high school student protests to push their agenda, and it's being supported by liberal donors who hope to create new momentum to enact firearms restrictions. Former Milwaukee County Sheriff David Clarke Jr. alleges that the activism campaign has "George Soros' fingerprints all over it." Soros is a prominent supporter of liberal causes.

That may be true. But students are to be commended for standing up for themselves, and they should not be punished for it. Rather, they should be heard. Dismissing them as childish or just wanting a little time out of school as some would suggest sends the wrong message to these young people. Because they are teens doesn't mean they can't think for themselves. In fact, sometimes they make a whole lot more sense than some adults who get a microphone every day.

As we said earlier in this space, every school in America should be made as safe as possible including training and arming select teachers and staff if necessary. School buildings must be reinforced — doors, windows and locks — and monitored to ensure that no one is able to enter them without clearance.

And certainly there should be metal detectors on every door with a security agent standing by as students enter school buildings. There are many in our communities who have weapons training including former military and law enforcement personnel who already possess and carry firearms. Having them operate access points at all schools, checking every backpack and bag carried onto the premises, will make for safer campuses.

Yes those are expensive suggestions. But we're not living in the '60s when school shootings weren't even on our radar. We're living in a different world today.



March 1

The Johnson City Press advocates leaving school security to professionals:

Anyone who claims to have a ready solution to America's epidemic of gun violence is dreaming, purposefully bloviated or both. No challenge facing this country is more complex, more divisive or more demanding. Not health care reform. Not opioids. Not immigration.

Americans suffer from a puppy-like condition when it comes to headlines. After every mass shooting, the gun debate rears its head, only to fade from attention again when another scent drifts by, be it Confederate monuments, the National Anthem or Melania Trump's shoes.

In the aftermath of the Parkland, Florida, slayings, however, young people are finally voicing their concerns about bloodshed that has taken the lives of far too many of their peers. Regardless of whether you agree with gun controls many have advocated, it's clearly a pivotal development that those most vulnerable are involving themselves.

We would hope our politicians take them seriously, but chances are slim in this divisive climate dominated by special interests. Chest-thumping in Washington, as well Nashville and other state capitals, is not helping. The left screams for sweeping restrictions. The right screams for more guns. Blusterous posturing pervades. Meanwhile, bodies mount.

Curbing gun violence will require a massive cultural overhaul in this nation, one that no longer accepts mass casualties as collateral damage in the name of freedom. Second Amendment rights must be definitively protected within reason, but real conversations must include numerous factors. Not the least of those are access to military-grade weapons, mental health counseling, background checks, potential offender tracking, security and bullying. Social media has played no small part in the escalation and frequency of school violence, as students face increasing social pressures from internet cruelty, but remember, the Columbine massacre happened in 1999, well before Facebook existed.

We can imagine any number of scenarios that might contribute to better safety in schools. Turning them into armed encampments is not among them. Arming teachers and staff would only exacerbate the danger, and children could be caught in the crossfire. Many teachers and parents justifiably fear how such weapons might be used in the classroom, accidentally or with purpose. Simply put, school security should be in the hands of professionals, not home economics teachers, cafeteria workers and track coaches.

We have seen one reasonable step discussed in Tennessee, though. On Wednesday, state Rep. Micah Van Huss, R-Jonesborough, and Rep. Antonia Parkinson, D-Memphis, unveiled the School Safety Act of 2018, which would provide state funding for off-duty law enforcement officers to work in public schools on a volunteer basis. Two officers would be allocated per school in addition to any school resource officers already employed there. We consider the proposal a fine first step, but we'd prefer more state funding for additional full-time police presence in schools.

Parents often bristle at adding metal detectors to school entrances because of the prison-like perception, but given the dozens of deadly incidents at schools — not to mention Virginia Tech, Las Vegas, Miami and other mass slayings — in the decades since Columbine, it's time to reconsider.

Bolstered school security will come with a hefty price tag, but our kids' lives are in the balance.



March 2

The Commercial Appeal on the lack of progress with regard to racial equality:

While a film about a fictional African nation with unlimited power and resources was setting records at the box office, there were reminders of a harsh reality: The social and economic goals for African-Americans set by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. a half-century ago have not been fulfilled.

While "Black Panther" was approaching $1 billion in sales, "Memphis Since MLK," released by the National Civil Rights Museum in partnership with the University of Memphis Benjamin L. Hooks Institute for Social Change, revealed data confirming the disproportionate prospects for success between white and African-American members of this community.

Meanwhile, a coalition of faith-based groups and the director of Howard University's leadership and public policy center reported that goals outlined in the Kerner Commission report 50 years ago — dealing with unemployment, segregation, poverty, media coverage and substandard housing among African-Americans — remain largely unrealized.

And back in Memphis, CNN commentator Angela Rye, delivering the keynote address at the city's commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the Memphis sanitation strike and King's assassination, claimed that city policies were contributing to a disproportionately black prison population, drawing a sharp rebuttal from Mayor Jim Strickland.

"Memphis Since MLK," authored by Dr. Elena Delavega, assistant professor of social work at the University of Memphis, explored the question of "how African-Americans and the poor have fared in Memphis and Shelby County over the past 50 years."

The answer: Despite progress on the educational achievement front, the poverty rate for African-American children is rising, an income gap between black and white residents has actually gotten worse over the past eight years, and the disproportionate incarceration rate of African-American males, which seems to be at the root of a lot of problems, has gotten worse.

"There is no doubt that the rate of incarceration of African-American males since the late 20th century has had a dramatic impact on the unemployment rate for African-American males," the report concluded. "We can thus hypothesize that the removal of African-American men from the community has had a positive correlation to the increase in childhood poverty rates."

Of course, Dr. King and others of the civil rights era enjoyed much success fighting institutional racism. But they have not ended the discrimination that continues to prevent black children from reaching their social and economic potential.

"The poverty that excludes someone from visiting a restaurant or traveling by plane is as restrictive as the overt discrimination of 50 years ago," Delavega wrote. ". In some ways, perhaps in many ways, a life in poverty is often a life denied."

It would be a mistake to understate the importance of this issue. Efforts to create new opportunities for businesses led by African-Americans, fully fund public education and the like must be vigorous and ongoing. African-Americans who emerge from the criminal justice system must be provided with training and employment opportunities that will reduce their risk of returning.

The city's failure to close economic and cultural gaps between black and white residents serves as a brake on the economic health of the community as a whole. We all suffer the consequences in a county where so many people don't have a chance to experience a productive, fulfilling life. The lack of progress is simply unacceptable.