Armed guards in our schools is a BAD idea. This idea should be taken off the table immediately. We must not let fear drive us to arms. If we do, the Newtown gunman wins, and the children lose. In a recent letter to Greenwich Board of Education Chairman, Leslie Moriarty, and Greenwich Superintendent of Schools, Dr. William McKersie, Greenwich Selectman Drew Marzullo gives good reasons to oppose armed guards in schools. I reproduce his letter here.
Dear Chairman Moriarty and Dr. McKersie,
I am writing to you to strongly voice my opposition to having armed guards in schools . While we can all agree that now is the time for a serious review of school safety, a needlessly reactionary response to a horrific crime does not make our town or our schoolchildren any safer. Instead, we should examine the current areas of weakness in our school safety plans, and use protocols, empirical evidence, and common sense to address those security gaps.
Floating the idea of armed security guards in Greenwich schools should be taken off the table now, and should not be part of the discourse that follows from the Sandy Hook tragedy. This should not be a public policy debate.
There are myriad reasons to oppose this idea, but I will name several of the most concerning:
•Children need to feel safer in school. It is our job, as town government officials, to provide them with that security. However, introducing guns into their buildings, especially in the hands of non-law enforcement professionals, is essentially creating more opportunities for violence. What happens if there is a school shooting, and the armed guard is in the ladies room? At lunch? On the other side of campus? While the chances of him or her preventing a mass shooting are infinitesimally slim, the odds of a child accidentally (or purposefully) accessing said guard’s weapon are much greater.
•Where do we stop? Would only the public schools get armed guards? Private schools? Day care centers? The YWCA nursery? The reality is, a mass shooter can strike at any of these institutions. Why would one be “protected” over another?
•If a thorough review of Greenwich school safety issues uncovers a need for some type of increased protection, trained law enforcement officers should be our first line of defense. To that end, there are many creative ways to increase security without compromising a child’s learning environment and that keep costs low. One such suggestion, made by a Greenwich firefighter, was to instruct GPD officers to write their daily reports while parked in front of one of the schools in their patrol zone. This gives a police presence, throughout the day, that is cost-free and unobtrusive. Rather than the false sense of security that an armed guard would provide, more dialogue is needed to come up with innovative strategies that don’t create a police state in our schools.
•Finally, there needs to be a new initiative between Greenwich teachers, guidance counselors, house masters, school psychologists, and police to establish a screening process or safety net for students who may be at a higher risk of committing violence. This is not an attempt at profiling mass shooters. Rather, this would be an early intervention program to identify those students who may be a danger to themselves or others. Rather than armed guards, a serious examination of our counseling, bullying and mental health services may be a more fruitful (and certainly less extreme) use of our time and money.
I am ready and willing to commit to an examination of our current school safety policies and do everything in my power to assist the Board of Education with any safety measures that will enhance our schools. Armed guards, however, are not now, and never will be, the answer.
Selectman Drew Marzullo