School Resource Officers and Armed Teachers
Recently, school shootings have made headlines and heated arguments about how to best protect children in schools.
While the politics get heated, and activists use tragic events as tools to push whatever agenda they are promoting, the realities get lost in the hype. Statistics are inflated using drug and gang related violence that takes place wherever those involved happen to be. Since they happen to be on school property sometimes, this violence sometimes happens on school property, but these are crimes related to specific activities and often specific locations, not the terroristic active shooter situations most people envision when these statistics are quoted. The truth is, school shootings have decreased over the last decades, and we see fewer than we used to. While that is a nice statistic, it means little to parents who have lost children in one of these acts of terror.
Anti-gun politicians say that the presence of any gun on school property only endangers the lives of the children present and they oppose the presence of armed security at schools. This is an argument based on emotion, not on reason; it is an argument meant to promote an agenda, not to protect children.
In this country, most people cannot carry a firearm into the secure area of an airport. There are laws prohibiting it. There are signs notifying travelers. There are X-ray machines and metal detectors. Does anyone feel that that is sufficient to protect travelers? Of course not. Airports are guarded by armed airport police. Armed sky marshals fly on planes. Some pilots are armed.
Firearms are prohibited in most courthouses and federal buildings. There are laws prohibiting them. There are signs warning people that firearms are not allowed. There are metal detectors. Does anyone feel that this is enough to protect those who work there? Of course not. They use contracted armed security, or armed police officers or sheriff’s deputies.
Firearms are prohibited in most schools. There are laws and signs. Some schools have metal detectors. And the minute anyone suggested placing armed personnel in a school, there is an outcry that children’s lives will be in danger as a result.
We see armed security at sports arenas, at banks, at ports, at train and subway stations, malls, military installations, borders, concerts, fairs, parades, and patrolling our towns and highways. A a society we recognize that all of this is required to protect against violent criminals. Do we really imagine that the armed security or police officer that is present at the mall where kids go after school, at the airport where kids travel, and at the bank where kids stand in line with their parents will suddenly be a grave threat to children the minute he steps on to school property?
No matter how fast police response times are, police responding from off-campus can never be fast enough in an active shooting situation. When a murderer enters a school intending to kill children, there must be someone on-scene and prepared to end the threat.
There has been some talk of Israel’s armed security and armed teachers. Some discount the effectiveness of this program, claiming that the situation is much different. I will admit the situation is different. Israel faces a determined, fanatical, and often well-trained enemy. The threat to their schools comes from well-armed and skilled terrorist fighters. Israel deals with this threat on many levels, from actively hunting terrorists to saturating their society with armed military, police, and security personnel who carry their weapons on and off duty. The armed school personnel are the last line of defense for the children, but an important one.
The statement has been made that Israel does not ever have demented students or members of the community that enter schools and murder students. In fact, even with all the terrorists who would like to target Israeli children, there have been only a few attacks on schools over the last decades. We cannot tell how many attacks were deterred by the knowledge that there were armed personnel at the schools, or how many were deterred by other layers of Israeli security. We also cannot know if there were cases in which a student or member of the community would have attacked an Israeli school, but did not because they knew they would face armed security.
The stationing of armed police officers in schools can be an important step toward deterring school shootings and stoping any that are not deterred. The recent shooting in Oregon is a good example. A student entered the school with enough ammunition to do great carnage, yet was stopped in less than a minute by police officers who were stationed in the school.
Stationing police officers in schools is not always feasible in every area due to budget and manpower limitations. Even where SROs are stationed in schools, trained armed teachers are cost-effective, provide on-scene response, and have the advantage of the element of surprise. There is no reason to believe that a well-trained teacher could not be as safe and effective as a police officer. After all, these are college-trained, screened professionals that we trust to be intelligent and responsible enough to train our children.