Poll: Most school board members oppose arming staff

State School Boards Association releases findings
Saratoga High students hand over signed petitions supporting armed grounds monitors in October.
Saratoga High students hand over signed petitions supporting armed grounds monitors in October.

A majority of school board members in New York oppose arming school district staff, according to a poll by the State School Boards Association.

More than 70 percent of respondents said they opposed arming school staff like teachers, administrators and district personnel who serve in security roles. Twenty percent of respondents said they supported arming school staff, while 8 percent were not sure.

“The results of the poll seem to show that school board members are wary of broadening the presence of guns in schools,” Timothy Kremer, the School Boards Association executive director said in a release Friday.

The question was part of random survey of school board members across the state who were asked their views on a series of recommendations from the federal government, including encouraging districts to consider arming school staff.

The survey also found that nearly 90 percent of school board members in New York supported measures that would restrict access to firearms for students found to be a danger to themselves or others. Nearly 75 percent of respondents opposed a separate measure that would offer incentives and lower certification standards for retired police, military veterans and other people with advanced firearms training; nearly 13 percent of respondents supported the measure.

While few in the state have shown support for arming teachers, some districts in the Capital Region have established new armed security positions. The Mohonasen school board earlier this school year authorized the district’s chief security official, a former state police investigator, to carry a gun as part of his job duties. Gloversville has pursued a similar district position this year, and Broadalbin-Perth has considered doing the same.

In Saratoga Springs, a heated debate has flared over whether to authorize a contingent of former police officers who work as district grounds monitors to again carry firearms. Some of the monitors for years had carried firearms, but that practice was stopped in the spring after district officials determined state law required the school board to specifically approve the practice.

This school year the board narrowly rejected granting the authorization for the monitors to carry firearms, sparking a backlash from scores of parents who have argued the district’s schools are less safe without armed monitors.

A parent group that formed as part of that backlash last weekend released an eight-point safety plan and has promised to back a slate of three candidates in the May school board election.

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