School Security: Superintendent Not In Favor Of Armed Guards

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Jan 142013

The Orange Board of Education held a special meeting on Jan. 7 at which time they discussed contracts and school security. An ad hoc committee was formed to work on formulating a security plan for the Orange elementary school system.

On Thursday, Jan. 10, the committee met for the first time at Mary L. Tracy School. Among those in attendance were Asst. Police Chief Anthony Cuozzo, Fire Chief Charles Gagel, Police Chief Robert Gagne, Fire Marshal Tim Smith, firefighter/Kindergarten teacher Lisa Kaplan, school principals and Board of Education members.

Following are the minutes from that meeting:

Meeting called to order at 4:00 p.m. Mary L. Tracy, upstairs conference room

Panic Buttons
•    A must, put them in immediately
•    Use a small committee within this group to determine where and how?

ID Card Readers at Doors
•    Accountability – holding the door open, losing cards, must swipe your own cards, people don’t lose it very often
•    Limit the time that the cards will work, so alarms don’t get off
•    Power outages – 2-hour battery back-out

Classroom Door Locks
•    Another let’s do it, item
•    With classroom doors open, the doors between classes become an asset, not a detriment
•    Policies… trainings for teachers on doors and keys

•    Amity has camera security and has had remarkable results
•    Huge advantages regardless of the issue
•    Monitoring: 24-7, live feed to our computers… to police computers
•    The Bond needed to have a radio/data transfer wire project which would facilitate this ($125,000); but this did not make it into the bond – can it be reconsidered?
•    The lack of bandwidth for the police does not hold back our project
•    Records and holds the data for anywhere from 14 to 30 days, then tapes over itself

•    Much discussion ensued about the value of armed security at the front doors; from 7 a.m. – 6:00 p.m.
•    Not much interested among any committee members at all in armed security guards that are supplied by a security firm – huge liability
•    Police explained that all shooting incidents are planned; having an armed person at the door simply means the person plans for that armed person and looks for some other ‘soft spot’ (playground, buses, arrival, dismissal)…or plans to eliminate that guard, as part of the plan.
•    Better if money is spent to improve the facilities’ weaknesses
•    Takes about a year to hire a police officer; then, the officer needs some seasoning before assigned to a school; can’t take someone out of the academy;
•    Conversation about a police school resource officer (SRO) rotating through the four schools… unscheduled, thus, no perpetrator can plan for the whereabouts of an unscheduled officer on any given day
•    Much discussion about the advantages of the SRO’s value-add to the school system in terms of making personal connections, curriculum supports, decision-making, working with individuals and families, identifying bullying and isolation
•    Random presence is a deterrent because planning becomes impossible… a stationed guard can be planned around
•    However, a school resource officer does not solve the ‘traffic monitoring’ problem at all
•    If we plan to increase the monitoring of visitors by asking for ID, the nature of their business, etc. this is not a secretarial function
•    Not a 21st Century paraprofessional position, either

Ideas that seemed hold to the committee’s interest:
1.    An SRO officer assigned to the four schools; has value-add to students and families; rotating on an unscheduled basis deters ‘planning’ an event
2.    Adding a ‘sally-port’ vestibule creates a double locked entrance which is a deterrent
3.    Adding shatter-guard makes the doors themselves a deterrent
4.    Hiring a monitor for each school (7 a.m. – 9 p.m.), stationed in the sally-port, checks in visitors and facilitates visitor traffic into either the office or the school

Changes in visitor policies and protocols
•    We did not get to this specifically, but decided…
•    Yes, a committee needs to be formed to looked at this

Sally-port vestibules
•    Much interest
•    Needs more detailed investigation, planning, and rough estimates

Glazed or wired shatter-guard glass
•    Much interest
•    Needs more detailed investigation, planning, and rough estimates

We did not get to these three topics:
•    Separating student and staff/parent access
•    Improving ‘line-of-sight’
•    Defining the perimeters of the schools (signs, fences, etc.) to prevent accidental trespass

From the Superintendent:

Supt. Lynn McMullin told Orange Live that sub committees will be formed to concentrate on the different areas of this plan.

McMullin said she does not support the use of armed guards inside the schools. She said Police Chief Gagne and Asst. Chief Cuozzo both said that armed guards would just bring guns into the schools.

Instead, they favor having a school security officer — DARE Officer John Aquino, a friendly, familiar face to all the children — move from school to school throughout the day.

By doing this, someone with bad intentions can’t plan an attack. “They look for a soft target, and by not keeping a security guard at one place all the time, we create the inability for anyone to devise a plan,” she said.

The shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School took place one month ago today, so funding for security changes was not in the budget approved last year.

Nothing that they discussed is definite until it’s funded, so the Committee is on the agenda for the Jan. 28 Board of Finance meeting to discuss getting some money to implement these changes.

McMullin said some other schools already have some of the above mentioned procedures in place.
Next steps:

We will meet again as a full committee on January 24th, 4:00 upstairs in MLT to assess where we are

No need for a parent forum, but some communication that there is a committee meeting and considering options would be extremely helpful to parents.

The Superintendent will send out an email to the group, asking for a RSVP back with which sub-committee they would like to serve on.  People should only pick a committee in which they have a particular interest or knowledge-base, as the sub-committees will be very specific in their work.

COPS 2013 grants will be available; but not clear how the money will be distributed