Is the idea of arming teachers completely off-target as a tool for enhancing public school safety?Trustees in Arlington may be among the first in North Texas to publicly confront the issue after the Dec. 14 mass shootings in Newtown, Conn.The Star-Telegram's Max Baker reported Thursday that gun-rights activists expect to ask Arlington board members to consider letting teachers and administrators with concealed-carry handgun licenses carry weapons on campus. (bit.ly/TBDKfO)There's no indication that trustees are inclined to go that route, even though the notion has gained some traction in Texas and nationally after 20 children and six adults were gunned down at Newtown's Sandy Hook Elementary School.School safety is a paramount concern that officials in every district must take seriously. But any discussion about keeping kids safe has to consider potential threats along with the appropriate responses -- and the predictable downsides as well as potential benefits of bringing guns into schools.Despite the argument that making schools gun-free zones essentially has rendered them easy targets for armed maniacs, the most-prevalent dangers are less dramatic.Teachers and administrations must maintain order and be prepared to defuse confrontations involving students or students and adults. Schools must screen employees to keep predators away from children. Buildings must be secure so strangers with ill intent can't get near classrooms. Playgrounds and science labs must be kept in good shape to avoid foreseeable injuries.And there's the obvious need for plans in case of "ordinary" emergencies: fires, extreme weather, bomb threats or other events requiring lockdown or evacuation.It only takes one catastrophe like Sandy Hook to stir anxieties among parents, school personnel, students and the general public.Those fears can't be discounted. But perspective is important.The National School Safety Center, which studied deaths at or near U.S. schools from the 1992-1993 school year through 2009-2010, reported that the largest number for which a cause could be determined (120) resulted from interpersonal disputes: a stalker shot a teacher outside the building; a student was stabbed when a fight that started on campus continued several blocks away. Another 88 deaths were suicides, and 53 were gang-related, according to the report, "School Associated Violent Deaths." (bit.ly/VDFpM2)In 165 cases, the reason was listed as "unknown": a student shot in a hallway during class change; a Tyler teacher stabbed by a student in a classroom; a coach shot in the weight room by a former student.There's no easy answer to whether more guns can stop disturbed individuals from attacking vulnerable places. Consider that gunmen struck in February at a Georgia spa; in April at an Oakland university; in May at a Seattle cafe; in July at a Colorado movie theater; in August at a Wisconsin Sikh temple; and in September at a Minneapolis sign company.What school officials must ask is whether arming teachers is the best prevention to a rare -- even if devastating -- occurrence.Large school districts, including Arlington and Fort Worth, already partner with local police departments to keep a law enforcement presence, particularly on secondary school campuses.Safety can be enhanced by limiting the number of building entrances accessible during the day; requiring students and staff to wear photo IDs and tracking visitors with clearly displayed badges; and using surveillance cameras to monitor hard-to-patrol areas.The Texas School Safety Center's Jan 29-30 summit in Pittsburg will cover cyber-bullying and sexting; gang influences; current drug trends; and improving facility security. (bit.ly/12S47yI)Materials for the summit, prepared before the Sandy Hook shootings, warn that bullying is the most serious problem in schools. They also advise that, along with having up-to-date safety plans, school staffers should understand what might trigger violence."We are each empowered to make our schools safer places," one presentation says. Arming teachers isn't mentioned. And it shouldn't be considered unless and until trustees are convinced that other precautions are insufficient.