Bullying program critical to preventing violence

Carson Middle School students lingering at their lockers and eating lunch Wednesday had difficulty expressing their feelings about Tuesday's shooting at Pine Middle School in Reno.

"It's not something you want to talk about because it's really sad," said Leslie Flegler, 13, explaining that just a few words passed between her and her friends about the incident. "It's just not something you want to talk about."

Two students were injured in the morning shooting at the southeast Reno middle school on Neil Road. The shooter, a 14-year-old male, opened fire outside the school's cafeteria. One student went to the hospital. Another was injured by shrapnel.

Leslie said if something similar occurred at her school she would duck under her desk like in an earthquake.

"You can't stop a bullet," she said.

But while schools can't stop bullets, Carson Middle School has been proactive in stopping bullies, according to Principal Sam Santillo, who thinks the program is critical to preventing violence.

"We try to identify students we feel are having a difficult time at school," he said.

The program, which has been in place for three years, puts staff in constant contact with students who might feel the need to act out.

"Even that is not the answer," he said.

But as a result of the school shooting, he is considering changing the school's code-red procedure. It is the same procedure that Pine Middle School used Tuesday and involves teachers locking their classroom doors and blocking out the window of the door into their classrooms.

The lock-down has only been practiced with staff at Carson Middle because research shows, Santillo said, it's best to keep students from knowing the plan so that it cannot be jeopardized.

He's now thinking he may use an early-out day to practice a code-red drill with students in the morning and assess the procedure with staff in the afternoon.

"I'm seriously considering changing it," he said.

In his 15 years at Carson Middle School, he has taken away small knives " but never a "true weapon." If guns became a problem, student searches could be an answer " just not an easy one.

"Schools are supposed to be inviting places," he said. "(With searching), are we making a place that's inviting, or are we making a place that's institutionalized?"

Blake Re, 13, has seen students searched at school, just not for guns, but for suspicion of drugs or stolen items.

"I don't want (a shooting) to happen anywhere," he said Wednesday afternoon standing outside school with his grandmother. "I've never seen anything or heard of anything like (this) happening that is this close."

Carole Re, his grandmother, supports searches and says when people have nothing to hide " if they're "on the up and up" " then searches usually aren't seen as an invasion of privacy.

"(A shooting) could happen anywhere," she said. "You hope that it wouldn't. You would like to think society isn't at this level. You just don't know. But precautions need to be taken."

Santillo said the bullying program at the school encourages students to take "ownership." Some of the best tips about potential problems at Carson Middle School come from students.

"This hit home for all of us," he said.

n Contact reporter Maggie O'Neill at moneill@nevadaappeal.com or 881-1219.


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