(Mike Opelka) UPDATE: Shortly after publishing this story, Rick Green, editor of the Des Moines Register returned our call and gave us an exclusive comment on the story. Mr. Green’s statements are at the end of this article.
On Wednesday afternoon, the Des Moines Register published a map that shows which public schools in Iowa have no security.
The above map actually shows:
- Schools with no security guard – Red Dots
- Schools with a security guard – Green Dots
- Schools that did not respond - Grey Dots
The graphic is also interactive. When you click on a specific dot, you are given very detailed information about the location of the school and if it has a security office on campus. We clicked on the red dot for the Southeast Webster Grand school in Burnside, Iowa.
TheBlaze attempted to get a comment from Des Moines Register editor Rick Green. Mr. Green was reportedly not in the office, but we were directed to Metro Editor Cathy Bolton. An assistant to Ms. Bolton told us that the map and the story that went up on the site this afternoon was merely part of a “larger look at school resource officers that should be published either tomorrow or later tonight.” We also left word for Bolton in hopes of getting a statement regarding the wisdom of putting an interactive map online showing schools without any security officers.
According to the article;
At least 54 Iowa public school districts have a police officer or private security guard stationed at one or more of their schools during some part of the school day, a Des Moines Register survey found.
The paper does point out that the number of schools with officers could increase as many districts are currently updating their safety and security plans. However, the interactive map posted online identifies more than 100 public schools, from kindergarten through high school and community college campuses that have no security.
Many Iowans who have seen the map are not happy about this information being made public. It reminded them of the story from last December, when the New York Journal News published the names and addresses of legal pistol owners. Public pressure eventually forced the New York paper to pull the map, especially after they were embarrassed by the amount of outdated and inaccurate data their story contained. In early February, when the New York Times tried to gain access to a list of pistol permit holders, a court denied that request and some legal experts claim that decision also rendered the Journal News action to be illegal.
It is also worth noting that both the New York Journal News and the Des Moines Register are owned by the same company, Gannett — the publishers of USA Today.
Update: Shortly before 6 p.m. ET, as TheBlaze was going to publish this report, we received word that the newspaper had removed the map from the website. A contact at WHO NewsRadio 1040 in Iowa was told that the map and the story had been taken down “for editing” and will be back up again. Stay tuned.
Update #2: Just after 7 p.m. ET, Rick Green spoke with TheBlaze.
In a candid and thoughtful conversation with TheBlaze, Mr. Green stated that he had not seen the graphic prior to it being published on his paper’s site, “I pulled it down and revised it upon seeing it.”
On the phone, Green continued;
“All of us in the media have to be incredibly thoughtful and even more vigilant about balancing the need to report with how folks can perceive our work in the light of what happened at Sandy Hook. I’ll tell you, nothing is more important to me than protecting the students, school teachers and administrators and safeguarding a community against any kind of violence. We got a couple of phone calls from readers who were concerned about a map, took it down immediately, re-adjusted it. I’m not going to make the same mistake that has unfortunately plagued some other newsrooms about sensitivity. I try to be fair and responsible and not do anything reckless. I love my job too much, I love the role that we play here in Iowa, and I care too much about the safety of school teachers and students to do anything so that people would think we were being reckless and heartless. I just don’t operate that way.”
There is also an “official” statement that the Register has published on several social media outlets. It says basically the same thing as we heard from the editor over the telephone. But we offer it as it as well.
For months, police chiefs, superintendents and communities across Iowa have weighed whether to invest potentially hundreds of thousands of taxpayers’ dollars in the hiring of new or additional resource officers in public schools. The Des Moines Register surveyed superintendents to see which school districts now have those officers. We published on DesMoinesRegister.com Wednesday afternoon a map of districts that had the officers and those that did not. We listed no addresses or the names of specific schools — just the districts’ names. After hearing concerns from a handful of readers, we immediately took down that interactive map. It was replaced with one showing only those 54 districts with an officer or private security guard stationed at one or more of their schools. We also informed readers that many of the rest of Iowa’s 348 districts routinely have police officers or sheriff deputies visit and provide security to their schools. Again, no addresses or school names were shared. The recent Sandy Hook tragedy in Connecticut has forced all of us in the media, including the Register, to be even more thoughtful about how we approach our reporting and presentation on matters related to guns, crime, schools and student safety. We must responsibly balance the need to illuminate taxpayers and the public about school spending and security while also doing absolutely nothing that jeopardizes the safety of students and teachers. I appreciate those readers who expressed their concerns about our initial map. We listened and immediately responded.
Read the entire story on the Des Moines Register’s website.