A federal report released Tuesday on school safety suggests school districts consider adding armed school staff, including school monitors and resource officers, as part of a broader safety approach.
But a commission set up in response to February’s school massacre in Parkland, Florida, and headed by Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, left the decision of whether to arm school staff or pursue school resource officers to individual school districts, concluding local leaders should work with law enforcement to consider a variety of approaches “based on their own unique needs.”
Districts may consider armed security as a “deterrent,” according to the report, after districts evaluate safety measures, response time and familiarity with local police and support within the local community for arming staff.
The report also suggested some districts might find it appropriate to arm “non-specialized” school staff, like teachers and administrators, particularly “in districts where the distances involved can make police response times longer.”
As districts across the Capital Region consider safety measures – at least one local district is embroiled in a debate over the issue of armed staff – none have proposed arming teachers or administrators, and state officials have dismissed that idea.
Area school districts have, however, stepped beyond the traditional active-duty school resource officer model by arming retired police officers who work as school security personnel.
The Mohonasen school board recently authorized its head security official, a former state police investigator, to carry a firearm. Gloversville and Broadalbin-Perth are pursuing similar armed staff positions. Meanwhile, residents in Saratoga Springs this fall have fiercely debated whether to rearm grounds monitors who, for years, had discreetly carried firearms as part of their jobs.
The national report highlighted the value districts may find in employing former police and military veterans and proposed expanding programs that seek to ease veterans into education jobs as teachers, administrators and other school positions.
“School safety would benefit from more veterans and retired law enforcement officers leveraging their knowledge and experience to serve our nation’s students in a variety of roles,” according to the report. “These individuals not only have the potential to be effective educators in the classrooms but also are underutilized human assets for securing and protecting our schools.”
Civil rights groups and other education organizations criticized a separate recommendation in the report to rescind Obama-era school discipline guidance that aimed to reduce the disproportionate rate at which minority students are suspended in districts across the country. The commission concluded the guidance resulted in lenient discipline that left dangerous students in school.