Staff Writer

SWEETWATER-It was your standard summertime school board meeting, with not much out of the ordinary happening until the end, when an impromptu discussion of guns and violence on school grounds livened things up.

Sweetwater City School Board member Richard Rowe commented on recent school killings, wondering if such a thing was possible in Sweetwater.

Sweetwater Junior High School Principal Larry Stein said you just never know what anyone is capable of under the right circumstances.

"We are looking at ways to handle such a situation if it ever arose," Stein said. "You really don't know how such a thing will be handled, but maybe instructing our teachers in self-defense is one option we're considering."

Board chairman Mort Thomasson said students need to be listened to if they make threats. "I know you hear students saying 'I'm going to kill you' or some kind of threat all the time," he said. "And most of the time they don't mean anything. But with the world the way it is now, we need to take every threat seriously.

"But what can you do to a student who makes such a threat?" Thomasson continued. "Suspend them so they can go home and get a gun?"

Director of Schools Keith Hickey said the situation is one that the school system is addressing. "It is a situation that needs to be studied," he said. "A lot of communities where this has happened aren't that different from us and we don't want anything like that happening here."

In other business, the board approved the next years operating budget. Hickey said there wasn't much different in the budget and that the school system handled their money well, spending less per student than the state average.

"That doesn't mean we're cheating anyone," he said. "It just shows that we are very adept at handling our money."

The total school budget for the 1998-99 school year is $6,421,907, just slightly higher than last year's $6,369,701. The largest bulk of the money, nearly $4 million, comes from state education funds.

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