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Welcome to STop, the Seattle Times Opinion blog where our editorial writers and editors share their evolving thoughts on a variety of issues. STop is a place where opinion writers and readers can exchange views and readers can learn more about how editorial positions are formed.

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October 07, 2004

Terror in the classrooms

Feds in the Education Department have alerted schools nationwide to be on the lookout for people who pose a terrorist threat.

Department officials want school employees, parents and students to watch out for anyone who seems to be casing school buildings or in the process of planning something similar to the school siege that killed nearly 340 people -- many of them children -- in Russia last month.

Federal law enforcement point out legitimate activities that might be suspicious if seen in another light -- for example, a flower vendor, shoe shiner or street sweeper. Other legitimate/suspicious occurrences are people who quickly look away when you stare at them or who are walking around the campus in the company of others.

After scaring the beejesus out of school leaders who thought it was going to be another ordinary day, law enforcement officials cautioned there was "no specific information indicating that there is a terrorist threat to any schools or universities in the United States."

Then why the out-of-the blue alert? School leaders already know their buildings could be possible terrorist targets. They are plugged into the same public warning systems as other agencies. They already know to check the color chart to see whether America is on high alert or so-so alert. Anything more, without concrete information, heightens fears unjustifiably.

Also, I never know exactly how law enforcement defines suspicious. What would a flower vendor have to be doing to make it onto my suspicious persons list? Hopefully, a lot more than selling flowers, walking in the company of others and not wishing to meet my glances.

I've done the proactive terrorist patrol and it didn't work out. One morning I dropped my son off at pre-school and noticed a tired-looking, unshaven man in an old car that looked like it wouldn't get him past the next block. I stared at him and he looked away. Aha! I called the school director, reported my sightings and waited to hear about the arrest.

Turns out the man was the husband of a teacher. I guess if we had to wake up at the crack of dawn to drive our spouses to work, we all might drive around unshaven and tired, too.

Respond to Lynne

Read her latest column

 
Posted by at October 7, 2004 03:30 PM



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