Our view: Barletta spells out blunt truth about Congress, school safety

Two rings of chairs encircle the words ‘NEVER AGAIN’ in a silent protest on the 19th anniversary of the Columbine High School shooting outside Trinity High School in Manchester, N.H., on April 20, 2018. The inner ring chairs have names of the Columbine victims; the outer ring chairs have names of the Parkland High School shooting victims. - AP Photo| Charles Krupa

Let’s set aside Congressman Lou Barletta’s controversial stances on immigration and border security for just a minute so we can concentrate on an even more crucial issue.

Barletta, a Republican and ex-Hazleton mayor, recently spoke at a Pennsylvania Press Club luncheon. His remarks formed the basis of recent op-ed from an out-of-town writer who found it telling that Lou did not mention Trump in his scripted remarks.

Take from that what you will.

Again, we’re focused on something different today.

During his Press Club speech, Barletta spoke about school safety and his remarks grabbed our attention in a way a politician — especially one running for higher office — usually does not.

Maybe that’s because the Senate candidate hit right at the heart of the matter and in doing so exposed his own colleagues for their hypocritical lack of action when it comes to protecting children from being slaughtered in their classrooms.

We believe it’s worth repeating what Barletta had to say on a topic that he said is “bothering me very much”:

“Every day, while Washington continues to talk, children and teachers go to school again without any protection and hoping today is not the day. Not too long ago, the Republican baseball team was attacked during practice. What happened then? Washington found money immediately for more protection for us. We could put bullet-proof glass in our offices. We could have security at our homes.

” … Try to go into a federal building and see what type of security we have. Every federal employee can go to work today and have no fear that anything will happen. But yet our children can go to school, and our teachers can go to school, and hope that it’s not their school that’s next.

“… We know these kids are targets. We know this is not going to be the last time. Why does Congress act so fast when it’s us, but not so fast, we have to debate, when it’s somebody else?

“I think our kids are much more important than us. I think their lives to their parents mean a lot more than my life. What makes my life more special than your son, your daughter, or your grandchildren? I don’t think so.”

Powerful stuff. When was the last time you heard a politician say he matters less than the people he serves? Probably never.

Barletta said two of his four daughters are teachers, so we can see why he’s so passionate.

Some of what he’s pushing for include his “Protecting Our Kids” bill that would have Homeland Security issue guidance on how to better protect schools, such as is done for federal buildings. He’s also wants to double the funding for “Secure Our Schools” grants, from $75 million to $150 million.

Both good starts.

Meanwhile, Barletta’s opponent in November, Sen. Bob Casey, helped introduce a bill to prevent bullying, a root cause of some of the shootings. The Safe Schools Improvement Act would “ensure that school districts across the country take proactive steps to combat bullying and protect children.”

There’s no single solution, but there are worthwhile ideas springing from both sides of the political aisle.

But going back to what Barletta was stressing, it’s time to stop talking and take action.

Schools will be in session again next month. And you can’t help but wonder when those awful headlines will again blare about kids shot at a school.

Will it be late August? September? October? Let’s hope it never happens again. But until and unless our elected leaders start doing for our most vulnerable what they do for themselves, it will be nearly impossible to break the cycle of violence.

— Times Leader

Two rings of chairs encircle the words ‘NEVER AGAIN’ in a silent protest on the 19th anniversary of the Columbine High School shooting outside Trinity High School in Manchester, N.H., on April 20, 2018. The inner ring chairs have names of the Columbine victims; the outer ring chairs have names of the Parkland High School shooting victims.
https://www.timesleader.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/07/web1_120266994-08783e33f73b4f1db9456f6b83fc6abe-2.jpgTwo rings of chairs encircle the words ‘NEVER AGAIN’ in a silent protest on the 19th anniversary of the Columbine High School shooting outside Trinity High School in Manchester, N.H., on April 20, 2018. The inner ring chairs have names of the Columbine victims; the outer ring chairs have names of the Parkland High School shooting victims. AP Photo| Charles Krupa