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Retired educator talks gun concerns to Medina County Commissioners

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    Bill Thombs, a former Westfield Township trustee and Cloverleaf High School principal, asks Medina County commissioners Tuesday to get behind a March 24 march that he wants to organize on Public Square in Medina to promote child safety in schools.

    BOB FINNAN / GAZETTE

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Bill Thombs, a former Westfield Township trustee and Cloverleaf High School principal, asks Medina County commissioners Tuesday to get behind a March 24 march that he wants to organize on Public Square in Medina to promote child safety in schools.

BOB FINNAN / GAZETTE Enlarge

MEDINA — Students in Parkland, Fla., are organizing a March 24 march in Washington, D.C., and other parts of the country for stricter gun control legislation.

They are mobilizing to try to prevent another mass shooting like the one at their school, Marjory Stoneman Douglas High, where 17 people were killed.

Bill Thombs, a former Westfield Township trustee and longtime educator, wants to have a march on Medina’s Public Square that day. At Tuesday’s meeting, he asked for Medina County commissioners’ help to get it off the ground but didn’t receive it.

Thombs, 80, said he called Commissioner Bill Hutson before the meeting to let him know he was coming and what he was going to talk about.

“Our private conversation became a gun issue,” Thombs said. “My message was to support the kids. If they want to bring that (gun control) up, that’s their business. I stayed out of that.

“There is a fear factor for some of them that this would become an issue (of gun control). It disappoints me they took issue with it.”

Hutson and Commissioner Adam Friedrick indicated they support the Second Amendment and the right to bear arms. Commissioner Pat Geissman, who wanted to support Thombs’ proposal, said she has four sons and a husband who are members of the National Rifle Association, which has more than 5 million members.

Hutson said school safety issues need to be addressed by the schools. He said superintendents in Medina County need to get together with Will Koran, superintendent of the Educational Services Center of Medina County, to discuss it.

“While I completely support school safety, (the march is) more specific than that,” Hutson said. “It’s gun control.”

Hutson said, in his opinion, the biggest issue with mass shootings is mental health.

“This is where the focus needs to be,” he said. “This whole process is something that is fraught with emotion. Once you get the emotion out of it, then you can sit down and figure out solutions. I don’t believe marches and demonstrations are a constructive way (to figure out a solution).”

Friedrick said he’d like to see more security at schools and a higher focus on mental health.

He also said he’s not in favor of students walking out of school March 24 to march on Public Square.

Thombs said he didn’t come to the commissioners meeting to support or disapprove of gun control.

However, he did say, “The gun doesn’t cause the problem.”

Thombs said he spent 38ᄑ years working in school systems as a teacher and administrator. Twice, students brought a gun to school while he was an educator, once at Brush High School and another time at Cloverleaf.

Thombs cited the April 20, 1999, shooting at Columbine High School in Colorado where 13 people were killed.

“It’s been 19 years since Columbine and we’ve done nothing,” he said. “That’s not acceptable. I’m here because I couldn’t sit back.

“Our thoughts and prayers for 19 years haven’t changed anything. I support the kids in Parkland, Florida, and their efforts with the Never Again movement they are trying to start.”

The Florida students’ mission statement says, “We cannot allow one more student to be shot in a school.”

“Our schools are unsafe,” Thombs said. “Our children and teachers are dying. We must make it a top priority to save these lives. That’s why I’m here this morning.”

Thombs, who retired in 2000, still plans to organize the march.

“Other communities are taking this step,” he said, citing Canton, Wooster and Cleveland.

Beyond the march, he said he wants to form a student-led task force for Medina Schools.

“I’ve talked to administrators,” Thombs said. “They like that idea. Kids should start making those decisions. It’s their lives and their futures.”

He said law enforcement, school officials and elected officials also could be on the task force.

However, he wants kids to lead the way.

“They have no party ties to please,” he said. “No money to satisfy. They will make decisions on what’s best for their schools.”

He said there are two other walks planned nationwide. There is a women’s walk set for 10 a.m. March 14 for teachers, students and administrators. It will last 17 minutes for the 17 lives lost in Parkland.

On April 20, there will be a National School Walkout to commemorate the 19th anniversary of Columbine.

“It’s time, folks, to put the kids in charge, listen to what they have to say and make a change,” Thombs said.

Contact reporter Bob Finnan at (330) 721-4049 or rfinnan@medina-gazette.com.



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