SARATOGA SPRINGS — The Saratoga Springs school board on Tuesday rejected a proposal to authorize the district’s grounds monitors to again carry firearms on school grounds.
With a vote of four in favor and five against, the board did not approve allowing the grounds monitors – former law enforcement officers who now work for the district as security guards – to carry firearms as part of the job duties.
For many years, some of the grounds monitors had carried firearms while on school grounds. But that practice was halted in the spring after district officials determined it was in violation of state law, which requires a school board to explicitly authorize someone to carry a gun on campus.
Board President Brad Thomas cast the decisive vote after the rest of the board split evenly, with some of the members arguing there remained too many unanswered questions about how armed grounds monitors would function, while others had argued firearms were key to strengthening school safety.
“It’s easy to want a gun, but I don’t think it’s that simple,” Thomas said after the vote.
Before the vote, three other board members outlined their rationale for rejecting the gun-carry authorization; none of the board members in favor of authorization explained their votes during the meeting. The board members in opposition argued there was a lack of evidence that suggested armed guards made schools safer and raised concerns that arming grounds monitors could frighten students and be detrimental to the overall school culture.
“There is no data that suggests the presence of armed security makes kids any safer in school, being armed is not a part of the job description for grounds monitor and was not a part of any risk assessments,” said board member Heather Reynolds.
Before the board considered whether to approve rearming the grounds monitors, a handful of parents staked out arguments both for an against approval.
Three parents and a pair of students spoke during the meeting in opposition to authorizing the grounds monitors to carry firearms. They argued the district had not fully discussed the issue and raised questions about what circumstances would justify a monitor pulling out his or her weapon, how the district’s insurance costs would be affected and how concerns over implicit bias and racial disparities would be addressed.
“There has been no task force, no committee to research, no forums to discuss,” said parent Patricia Pleu. “Guns have no places in our schools, period. If guns made us safe, we would be the safest country in the world.”
Another parent stood up in support of arming the grounds monitors, arguing they were trained professionals willing to risk their lives for the safety of students. She said the district should allow the monitors to carry weapons in order to best protect students.
“We have trained individuals, overly-qualified professionals who are willing to put their life on the line for our children,” parent Michelle King said. “How are they going to protect them if you don’t give them the tools to do it?”