Should Armed Guards Patrol Schools?

Should Armed Guards Patrol Schools?
Posted by FoM on June 12, 1999 at 08:40:11 PT
After Littleton, Opinions Differ on Guns on Campus
Source: APB On Line
NEW YORK After a string of gun-related tragedies in the nation's schools, school boards across the country are trying to decide whether to arm the police and security officers charged with keeping order on campuses.
The issue has vaulted to the top of the education agenda and sparked emotional debate among parents, teachers, students and police departments, with some saying armed guards are the best way to prevent violence in schools, and others arguing that arming officers creates a negative environment and increases the possibility of deadly violence. The depth of the controversy was underscored this week as school boards in two districts thousands of miles apart took very different stands on the matter. In San Francisco on Tuesday, the school board voted to prohibit officers from carrying guns on school grounds, while Cobb County, Ga., in suburban Atlanta, passed a resolution authorizing its 28-member school police force to carry revolvers for the first time. Increased presence of police Related Stories: Full coverage of the Columbine High massacre STUDENTS' RIGHTS TRAMPLED AFTER LITTLETON, ACLU SAYS SHOULD WE ARM THE TEACHERS? Resources to deal with school violence School safety experts say security officers are becoming permanent fixtures on the school landscape. "More officers are in schools than ever before," said Joanne McDaniel, research director for the North Carolina-based Center for Prevention of School Violence. In North Carolina, for instance, the number of schools employing officers has increased 85 percent since 1996, a move McDaniel said has led to a decline in the number of violent incidents statewide and increased the feeling of safety in schools. A survey conducted by the center in 1997 found that of 300 officers in 35 states, 97 percent carried weapons. "They really see the gun as part of their uniform," said McDaniel. Concerns over students getting shot Those who oppose arming guards point to the massacre in Littleton, Colo., as evidence that officers with weapons don't prevent violent crimes. "The officer at Columbine became panic-struck, afraid he would shoot someone who wasn't involved -- even the SWAT team didn't go in for hours," said Betty Gray, one of two school board members in Cobb County who opposed the resolution. "We need model solutions that don't involve weapons." Cobb County is among the last metro Atlanta school systems that did not arm its officers on a daily basis, a policy Gray said she's worked hard for decades to preserve. She believes introducing weapons increases the risk children will be shot. "A crisis situation tries everybody's ability to deal with things, but we're still dealing with children. It's not worth the risk," she said. Chief plans to defy ban Law enforcement officials say as the number of violent incidents on school campuses rises, it is more important for officers to be prepared. "[Carrying weapons] is consistent with community policing, especially in light of Columbine and elsewhere," said Officer Sherman Ackerson, a spokesman for the San Francisco Police Department. San Francisco Police Chief Fred Lau has made it clear he will defy the school board's ban, and he is asking the city attorney to investigate the legality of the measure. Mayor Willie Brown said he will support the police chief. "We want officers to be ready when the unthinkable happens," said Ron Vincent, a spokesman for Brown. Police cite successful history Ackerson said the 30 officers assigned to San Francisco high schools will continue to carry their weapons and that only Lau will decide whether to arm or disarm his officers. "You don't have to take away officers' guns for schools to be a safe haven," he said. The San Francisco Police Department's school resource program has a long and successful history dating to the 1950s, said Ackerson, and it has become a model for school systems elsewhere. "We've been contacted by school systems across the country," he said. "We have a good relationship with students and teachers. We've had no major problems, and no students have been hurt or injured as a result." 'A lot of fear' But La Raza Centro Legal, a San Francisco public-interest law firm that represents disadvantaged young people in the juvenile justice system, said having armed officers creates a hostile climate in schools, especially for minority students. "They resent that police have such a presence in schools," said Renee Saucedo, a youth law attorney for La Raza. "They feel like they're on probation, and there is a lot of fear." Police officials counter that officers are stationed in schools to prevent serious problems. "We want to respond to problems in school," said Ackerson. "We're not 'jackboots' in the back of the classroom looking for kids chewing gum. We want to have a presence for drugs, weapons and gangs. " Experienced officers crucial to safety Safety experts say arming officers, and hiring the best officers for school patrols, should be part of a school district's comprehensive safety plan. "Ideally they never have to pull their weapon. But they don't want to be the one least armed in a conflict," said McDaniel. She also said it's as important to choose the right officers as it is to arm them. "Experience is critical -- you don't want rookies," she said. "You want someone who's worked with youth -- not arresting them -- but in a positive way."Amy Worden is an national correspondent.
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Comment #1 posted by rounderx on June 14, 1999 at 00:35:33 PT
guns guns guns
How much interferrence by the govt. is neccessary before we will feel safe. Each time you let the govt. handle something, you lose more of your freedom. How about we handcuff the students and put electrical shock collars on them to "keep them under control". It's not the guns , you idiots its the goverment you had better fear!!!!
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