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Arming School Staff Members or School Resource Officers – Let’s Look at the Facts, Part 2

Arming School Staff Members or School Resource Officers – Let’s Look at the Facts, Part 2

By Kevin Quinn

Earlier this week, in Part 1 of this blog discussion, I described two primary considerations schools need to address when thinking about arming school staff members. In today’s post, I will pose some additional thoughts and questions related to the discussion.

Carry or Secure

Staff members permitted to carry or access a weapon discover a lot of new responsibilities and considerations. Carrying a concealed weapon everyday isn’t as easy as un-tucking your shirt; and maintaining both security of and access to the firearm is not always simple.

  • Will permitted staff members carry a firearm at all times or will they secure the weapon (until needed) during the day?
  • What is the best means to secure the weapon and still enable access in an emergency?
  • Do local laws allow for carrying a weapon? Are individuals permitted to “open carry” or must the weapon be concealed?

Force Considerations

Police officers have other options for force in situations where use of a firearm would be unsafe or inappropriate. Impact weapons, chemical weapons, electronic control devices, and control and restraint techniques are several examples. In a crowded school hallway, the use of a firearm may not be a realistic or safe option.

Other Concerns

In addition to these major questions, there are multiple administrative concerns to address:

  • Is the school district prepared to absorb the increased cost of insurance?
  • What types of weapons and ammunition will be authorized?
  • How often will training and certification be provided for civilian staff members?
  • Who will pay for the costs associated with purchasing firearms, ammunition and training staff?

Another Option: SROs

Although placing School Resource Officers (SRO) in schools can be a financial and logistical challenge for many districts, I believe the best option for enhancing school safety is the presence of a properly trained SRO.

An SRO is a sworn officer, fully certified, properly equipped, and trained to deal with safety crises that may arise on school campuses. These officers also have direct radio contact with other responding officers during critical incidents. Further, SROs are available to guide and instruct students and staff in a variety of important areas of safety (e.g. driver safety, basic first aid, bike safety, drugs, etc.), as well as establish positive and supportive relationships with students.

Instead of trying to stop a “bad guy with a gun” with a “good guy with a gun,” I suggest we focus on providing schools with a sworn police officer, trained as a School Resource Officer.

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Kevin Quinn is a 20-year veteran police officer and SRO in Arizona and the former President of the National Association of School Resource Officers. He is the current President of the Arizona School Resource Officers Association as well as an advisor to several school safety organizations. He can be reached on Twitter @klah316 or email kquinn@asroa.org.

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Arming School Staff Members or School Resource Officers – Let’s Look at the Facts, Part 1

Arming School Staff Members or School Resource Officers – Let’s Look at the Facts, Part 1

By Kevin Quinn

There has been much talk about school safety and active shooters. One solution discussed at great lengths is arming school staff to deter and respond to an active shooter. Some people say the only way to stop a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun. I wish it were that easy, but there are several considerations to take when the topic of arming school staff members arises. For today’s blog, I will discuss two primary issues, identification and training. In Part 2 of this blog post, I will cover the remaining issues.

Identification

schoolsecurity-6c52aaecAs a police officer, I wear a uniform that identifies me to other officers and the public. Even if responders can’t see my face, they know I am not the suspect and can react accordingly when locating the threat. Unfortunately, teachers do not dress any differently than regular civilians and do not stand out in a crowd at a school – especially high schools and colleges where the students are older than elementary school students.

Furthermore, when officers arrive at the scene of an active shooter, our first goal is to end the violence. As we attempt to locate the suspect, we look for someone with a weapon. Imagine we come across Mr. Jones, the math teacher, in the hallway with his gun drawn. Chances are, Mr. Jones will be detained until his identity can be confirmed. That is, of course, if Mr. Jones doesn’t react in a way the officers deem a threat. In that case, there is a possibility of injury. But here’s another alarming variable –time – precious time that officers should be spending locating and apprehending the suspect.

Training

How much training will the armed staff members receive when the program is put into place? How much on-going annual training will they receive? How many hours will a staff member train before being allowed to carry a gun in schools? Depending on the location in the country, I have heard everything from eight to 24 hours of firearms training. It is important to realize that being able to shoot holes in paper does NOT mean you are ready for a potential deadly-force encounter. That readiness comes with intensive force-on-force training, decision-making scenarios, and high-stress combat shooting.

As you can see, identification and training alone raise several questions we need to consider before deciding to arm our school staff members. Look for Part 2 of the blog post, later this week.

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Kevin Quinn is a 20-year veteran police officer and SRO in Arizona and the former President of the National Association of School Resource Officers. He is the current President of the Arizona School Resource Officers Association as well as an advisor to several school safety organizations. He can be reached on Twitter @klah316 or email kquinn@asroa.org.

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School’s Out, SROs Are In

School’s Out, SROs Are In

OS5A2515June is already drawing to a close.  Most of us are still wondering, “How did the school year go by so quickly?”

Maybe we’re just getting older.  In our defense, I hear the kids saying it too.

It’s the sign of a great school year.

Teachers are closing up their classrooms, parents are pushing the sunscreen, and kids are switching to low power mode. It’s summer.

Yet some of us are already looking ahead to next school year.  In fact at Safe and Sound Schools, summer means getting to work with some of our favorite community members: administrators, safety directors, school officials, emergency managers, law enforcement, and school resource officers.

This June, Alissa and I met with law enforcement officers in Florida, SRO’s in Tennessee and Wyoming, and will soon head to California to meet with emergency managers and responders.

I first spoke to a room full of these folks in April of 2013 at the Massachusetts Juvenile Police Officers Association (MJPOA), in Norwood, Massachusetts.  Though the President of the organization, now a great friend, insisted that my message be brought to the group of 400+ SRO’s, I really wasn’t sure what I had to offer.

I’m a mom, a former teacher, and the mother of three beautiful girls. My youngest was killed at Sandy Hook on December 14, 2012. My second survived, hiding in a closet with her teacher and classmates, and my oldest waited in “hard lockdown” for hours for news that she would never receive: that we were all alright.

Yes, I have a story.  I can grab the heart of a room full of people with it.  But I wondered, “What do I have for trained safety professionals?”  “How can I help them do what they are trained and called to do?”

That April morning, I stepped up to the podium to address a room full of SRO’s.  I wondered if they could see me standing behind it.  I felt so small.

I opened my mouth and the words came out.  My experience, my perspective, my observations. It was what I had to offer.

It was the beginning of a relationship between school resource officers and our fledgling foundation, Safe and Sound Schools. Since that day, folks like these have taken my experience and Alissa’s, our perspective and our observations, and made schools and communities safer.

Since that spring, we have steadily reserved our summers for law enforcement, emergency managers, school safety teams, and school resource officers.  By listening and learning from them, I can develop more powerful resources to make it easier for them to be effective in schools. For example, SROs have a better understanding of how to speak to teachers, students and parents. They also feel appreciated by the community.

This year, it was our privilege to offer full day Safe and Sound School training to the SRO’s of Tennessee and Wyoming, and to share our story with the many of the finest law enforcement officers in Florida.

We’ll continue with these efforts and close the month with the emergency mangers of California.  Together, by working with our School Resource Officers, we can accomplish great things.

So yes, summer is finally here, but our work for a safer school year–for safer futures–It’s only just begun.

– Michele Gay

 

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12/2/15: From Tragedy to a Safer Tomorrow

12/2/15: From Tragedy to a Safer Tomorrow

Almost three years have passed since the Sandy Hook tragedy. Since then, as a country, we’ve witnessed dozens more school shootings and continuing incidences of bullying, violence, and even natural disaster. Although the Sandy Hook Tragedy caused many schools to reassess their safety and preparedness, these continuing incidents remind us that school safety needs to remain at the forefront –for both K-12 and college campuses.

This fall, we gathered local and national school safety stakeholders with the goal of better preparing schools and students for safety and beyond. We held a panel discussion at Boston University –“From Tragedy to a Safer Tomorrow.” Panelists included our Executive Director and Co-founder, Michele Gay, mother of Josephine, Scott Pare of Boston University Police Department, Virginia Tech survivor Kristina Anderson of the Koshka Foundation, Mo Canady of the National Association of School Resource Officers and Andre Ravenelle, Superintendent of Fitchburg Public Schools and President of the Massachusetts Association of School Superintendents.

Click here to view the event video:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ttk_lNUH2V8&feature=youtu.be

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Thanks to an engaged audience, asking questions at the mic and on Twitter using the hashtag #ASaferTomorrow, the discussion covered a range of topics. One of the topics of interests for many students in attendance was social media. We examined both the dangers and values of social media in in the school community. In times of crisis, social media has the advantage of getting information out instantaneously, but it can also be a cause for concern, as miscommunication and sensationalism can quickly lead to confusion, panic, and inaccurate information.

Scott Pare and his team at Boston University Police Department have had great success using social media to monitor potential violent threats. “We have software [to help us] monitor that information and stay current,” said Scott. While prevention is a huge component of school safety, the panel reminded our audience that having a plan in place to help staff address and respond to potential threats is essential. Likewise, it is critical to ensure that parents and community members receive accurate and timely information when a crisis occurs.

Mo Canady discussed the importance of School Resource Officers (SROs) and how they are becoming more common and valued in K-12 schools, particularly elementary schools. SROs are trained to build relationships with students and are more likely to control and calm a crisis situation. “The issue of deterrence cannot be overlooked,” said Mo. “There have been very, very few school shootings that have happened when an SRO is present.”

The issue of mental health and combating stigma attached with psychological counseling was also brought up during the discussion thanks to a question from an audience member. The panel of experts stressed that the need for mental health professionals at schools is just as important as increasing the presence and participation of SROs and other first responders.

With the evening coming to an end, our panel closed the discussion reminding all that as community members, each of us has a responsibility to ask difficult questions, keep the conversation alive, get involved, and realize that we all play a role toward a safer tomorrow.

Photo from Campus Safety Magazine reporter, Zach Winn 

 

 

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