Post-Newtown Debate Turns to Whether to Arm School Security

School officials across the country are contemplating the horrific events of last week’s shooting spree at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut and asking the question, how can we keep our schools safe? Parents tend to have very strong opinions on the broader question of whether teachers should ever be armed. But a more measured question–whether schools should hire armed security guards–is capturing more attention as the days unfold. The debate is playing out across social media, across dinner tables, and, as The New York Times reports, among school board members nationwide:

“Across the country, some 23,200 schools — about one-third of all public schools — had armed security staff in the 2009-10 school year, the most recent year for which data are available.

Now, in the wake of the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary in Connecticut, school officials across the nation are reviewing security protocols, including lockdown drills and building entry procedures, but also whether to hire more armed guards.

These questions arise amid a broader political and societal debate about gun control. While some people view the prospect of bringing additional guns into schools as fueling a culture of violence, others say children need the protection.

On Sunday, a former education secretary, William J. Bennett, indicated on NBC’s “Meet the Press” that he would support such measures. “I’m not so sure I wouldn’t want one person in a school armed, ready for this kind of thing,” said Mr. Bennett, who served under President Ronald Reagan.

With national sentiment starting to move in favor of stricter gun laws, Gov. Rick Snyder of Michigan vetoed a bill on Tuesday that state lawmakers had passed just a day before the shootings in Newtown, allowing registered gun owners to carry concealed weapons in schools. But also on Tuesday, a legislator in South Carolina introduced a similar bill that would allow school employees to carry guns in schools.

The question of whether to place trained security guards with guns in schools is left up to local districts. These officers are charged with protecting students not just from intruders but also from each other. They often conduct classes in preventing gang violence or bullying, as well as handle more prosaic tasks like issuing traffic tickets.

According to the Council of the Great City Schools, cities including Albuquerque, Baltimore, Dallas, Houston, Los Angeles, Miami and St. Louis have armed officers in schools, either contracting with local police forces or recruiting their own dedicated security staff. Other cities, including Boston and New York, place unarmed security officers in schools. Sandy Hook Elementary did not have a security guard on campus.”

Image: School hallway, via Shutterstock

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  1. by Suzanne

    On December 23, 2012 at 5:39 am

    Teacher reflects school shooting tragedies

    Returning to another Monday morning at work after a horrifically violent attack. I will pray for my students and for my own strength as we try to learn in the midst of grieving for the loss of so many. Maybe diagramming sentences will occupy their minds or maybe we can get lost in a story. Teachers like me all across the country will pretend to our students that it isn’t on our minds. We will close our classroom doors and think we will be safe; we want to believe we will be safe but we can’t really think it. Not after Columbine. Not after Virginia Tech. Not after Perry Hall. Not after Newtown. Not after too many. Some will point to the causes of these mass killings and unfortunately there are many—guns, mental health, desensitization, and violent images perpetuated in our culture—but there isn’t one solution.

    To protect our children from all of these causes of violence, we already practice lock-down drills in the event that we have an actively dangerous situation in our schools and I pray for all of us that we only have drills in the future.

    Others will point to securing our school buildings, classroom doors and locks in a similar way that prisons are. And that may deter some who want to commit violence but it will only slow others. Because adding video surveillance and police officers in every school will not stop the violence, it hasn’t so far. And then we will need to be prepared to fortify our malls, churches and other public places in the same manner. Then, where will it stop? Will more gun shops open in strip malls offering more assault weaponry and body armor? If our public places have to be protected from violent attacks, then surely our individual bodies will have to be similarly protected. Instead of grabbing my morning coffee and attaché with my car keys I will grab another two rounds and sling my assault rifle over my shoulder before heading off to work.

    For obvious reasons, maybe because the pain is too much, we want to honor this event and move toward the future quickly. Already social networks are posting about other mundane daily events. But for the community of Newtown, their lives will be anything but mundane. They would trade us a thousand of our minor life “traumas” for their one unimaginable trauma. Let us not let their children’s lives be in vain. Let us stand beside them and say enough. It is time to truly act on the issue of violence in our country. We owe it to our children and to all of the children lost to school violence.