Saratoga Springs

Saratoga parent group forms in support of arming grounds monitors

'It is our sincere hope that social media interest in this topic may urge the school district to reconsider'

Some parents of students in the Saratoga Springs school district are working to convince the school board to revisit and reverse its decision to disarm the district’s grounds monitors.

Arguing district officials failed to communicate to parents what the board was considering, a new Facebook group is urging parents to voice support for armed monitors both online and at school district meetings.

“The school did not communicate to us, the parents of the district, about this important vote,” said representatives of the group, Saratoga Parents for Safer Schools, on Facebook this week. “We need to communicate back to them that this important issue needs to be revisited.”

For decades, retired and off-duty police working as part-time security for the district had carried concealed weapons on school grounds. But in the spring, the district put an end to that practice after determining it was a violation of state law, unless the carrying of firearms was approved by the school board. At its Oct. 9 meeting, the board, in a 5-4 vote, rejected authorizing the monitors to carry firearms as part of their job duties.

Former Saratoga Springs Police Chief Ed Moore has also called on the school board to reconsider its decision – at first in a scathing Facebook tirade and later in more-measured comments.

While he later said he regretted the harsh and personal tone he took in a Facebook post the night after the board voted on the measure, Moore said his comments reflected the strong passions and deep feelings around the issue of arming the monitors.

“School board citizen activists with no understanding, experience or background in these issues just dismantled 50 years of cutting-edge security,” Moore wrote in his initial post. “Shame on each of the five board members who voted this longstanding practice out in an ill-advised and political fit of self satisfaction. Should a school shooting occur in the district, the blood of our students will be on your hands.”

Previous: Saratoga Springs school board rejects rearming grounds monitors, Oct. 9, 2018

The next day, Moore posted an addendum expressing regret about his characterization of board members’ motives and his own divisive tone. In an interview Tuesday, he again said he regretted the initial post.

“I won’t make any excuses; the way I presented it initially was wrong,” he said. “Some of my characterizations there are unfair. Ultimately, more research needs to be done — more discussion — and they need to invite some people that have a better understanding of this.”

During the board’s Sept. 27 meeting, district officials, including new head grounds monitor Mark Leffler, outlined safety and security measures the district has in place. But the presentation did not detail how the district would manage its staff of armed monitors.

Moore still believes the board should reconsider whether to rearm the grounds monitors, arguing their presence could prevent tragedy.

“With these types of [school] shootings, time is of the essence for how many people survive and how many don’t,” Moore said. “The shooting is over and the damage is done before law enforcement arrives.”

Moore said he thought school district administrators and former high school principals had long been aware the ground monitors carried concealed weapons while on school grounds. He said former police who meet annual training and certification requirements to carry a firearm would make the best line of defense against a violent attack at a school.

“They are the best people to be equipped and respond rapidly and shut a situation down,” Moore said.

Responding to messages via Facebook, someone from the parent group said the group was not ready to speak with the media and was “working through the channels of the school board and the administration office to get this vote revisited.”

The Facebook group’s first posts came Monday evening, garnering more than 250 followers as of Wednesday evening. The group said it hoped to gather 1,000 signatures on an electronic petition calling for the board to reconsider its decision.

Previous: Saratoga Springs school board rejects rearming grounds monitors, Oct. 9, 2018

“It is our sincere hope that social media interest in this topic may urge the school district to reconsider,” states a post on the group’s Facebook page.

Other posts urged parents to attend events at the high school and the board’s next scheduled meeting, set for Oct. 23, and to voice support for arming the grounds monitors. They have also urged people to reach out to school board members, highlighting that two of those who opposed the measure to keep armed monitors are up for re-election in May: board President Brad Thomas and board member Heather Reynolds.

“What are we missing here that the board thought it was in our children’s best interest to remove their security during an era when school shootings happen more than any of us could ever fathom,” states a group post.

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