Safety at school: Will more trained, armed officers help?

Among the proposals to improve safety in schools President Barack Obama unveiled this week, was a plan to put $150 million toward hiring as many as 1,000 additional school resource officers, psychologists and counselors in local school districts.

Shortly after the Sandy Hook shootings, the National Rifle Association called for an armed guard in every school in America. You can find a transcript of the group’s announcement by clicking here.

School resource officers are trained police officers who are utilized in school districts across the country. Some local school leaders see the plan as a way to help increase safety while dealing with difficult budgets.

Brendan Murray, a member of the Harrisburg Board of School Directors, pointed out the district cut seven security positions in this year’s budget, saving $114,000.

“In light of everything that happened with Sandy Hook, (we need) to make sure everything with security in our schools is perfect. As best as we can possibly make them, that’s what we need to do because our first goal is to make sure that they are secure in school. Then, we can educate,” said Murray, who disagreed with the security cuts his district made.

But, some parents question whether more guns will help.

“I wouldn’t want an armed guard at my child’s school just because the armed guard could be crazy. You don’t even know nowadays,” said Shirley Rozankowski, who has a seven-year-old daughter.

The National Parent Teacher Association released a statement after the President’s announcement Wednesday, saying the group “praises” his gun violence prevention agenda. But, the group takes issue with the expanded use of school resource officers.

“As the President conveyed in his remarks, our number one task, as a nation, is to protect our children. To achieve this, National PTA believes schools also must be completely gun-free.  The Administration’s recommendation to expand the school resource officer program therefore comes as a disappointment,” the statement said. You can read more by clicking here.

The Washington, D.C.-based non-profit Justice Policy Institute criticizes the use of school resource officers, saying its research doesn’t show a link between the number of officers in schools and kids’ safety. The group points out schools with officers are more likely to see kids arrested and put in the juvenile justice system for minor crimes. You can read the group’s report here.

Fox43 viewers have been weighing in our Facebook page (join the conversation by clicking here), and some see the idea as a clear way to improve safety.

Jeannine Guyer Forsyth said, “Yes, it would make it safer. Someone would think twice about attacking a school with an armed guard.”

Ricki Diehl added, “I would take armed, trained guards over metal detectors any day. There is no right way to go about this. Half of the population will be unhappy either way.”

Some viewers doubt the effectiveness of armed guards.

Wendy Morales said, “If someone wants to get into a school, or theater, or your home, and they are desperate enough and in a state of mind they don’t care, they will find anyway possible to do what they want to do.”

Jennifer Bolton Unitt added, “The thought of it turning to a shootout at schools does not sit well with me.”