With all due respect to the National Rifle Association -- courtesy is wise when an organization is this well-armed -- protecting students from gun violence is far more complicated than a security guard packing a firearm.

After last month's tragedy in Newtown, Conn., where a gunman killed 20 schoolchildren and six adults, NRA Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre proposed just such a solution. You may recall his bulging neck veins as he made his good-gunman-to-stop-a-bad-gunman speech.

"That was a simple answer for perhaps an agenda the NRA has, but I don't think it addresses our precious resources, our children," said Contra Costa County schools Superintendent Joe Ovick.

What does? Local educators say you start with secured school entrances, intruder awareness, lockdown drills, student counseling, police collaboration and go on from there. Complex problems don't have simple solutions.

Morello Park Elementary School in Martinez, like many area schools, locks peripheral entrances when the first bell rings. Visitors must sign in at the main office and wear badges on campus. It also joined many East Bay schools in recently outfitting classrooms with Columbine locks, which secure from the inside.

"I'm the safety coordinator for the district," said Principal Jonathan Eagan, "and all administrators had a 2½-hour meeting on the first day after the holiday break with the Martinez police. We use their standard response protocol. We do lockdown drills. We practice and rehearse, so we know what to do. The police give us feedback on what we should do."


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California High in San Ramon benefits from having a student resource officer, a city cop, on campus each day. "They carry guns," said Principal Mark Corti, "but it's not about that. It's about their connection with the kids and staff to get information prior to anything happening."

Familiarity helps officers recognize students with behavior issues, so problems are addressed before they erupt. Many shootings have been perpetrated by mentally or emotionally disturbed students, and identifying them can head off trouble.

The school also conducts secure-campus drills, in which someone impersonates an intruder. Students, staff and police all react as if the situation is real.

Concord High lost its daily police presence when city budget cuts eliminated three of five school resource officers -- a decision Principal Gary McAdam would like reversed -- but that hasn't lessened the school's effort to recognize students in need of help.

"I think being proactive is important," he said. "We have campus supervisors here when kids are out of class, and we have a teen counseling service with volunteers who identify kids who are struggling or have issues. The key to stopping violence is recognizing trouble beforehand rather than reacting afterward."

Erik Faulkner, principal of Oakley's Freedom High, pinpoints the fallacy of the armed-guard-on-every-campus plan: "Our campus is 58 acres, and the school has multiple entry points. Unless we put a wall around us, I don't see one armed person being the answer."

The gun epidemic is a multifaceted issue, he said, calling for better mental health care, restrictions on assault weapons and high-capacity magazines and unrelenting emphasis on emergency preparedness.

"We have staff throughout campus, and they're aware of their surroundings. They're constantly on the lookout."

It appears educators have given this a lot more thought than the NRA has. We say that, of course, with all due respect.

Contact Tom Barnidge at tbarnidge@bayareanewsgroup.com.