The nation’s largest gun-rights lobby on Dec. 21 called for the placement of an armed police officer in every school, but parents and educators question how safe such a move would keep kids, whether it would be economically feasible, and how it would alter student life. Their reactions ranged from supportive to disgusted.
Already, there are an estimated 10,000 sworn officers serving in schools around the country, most of them armed and employed by local police departments, according to a membership association for the officers. Still, they’re deployed at only a fraction of the country’s approximately 98,000 public schools, and their numbers have declined during the economic downturn.
Some departments have increased police presence at schools since this month’s shooting rampage at a Connecticut elementary school that left 26 dead, but they say they can only do so temporarily because of funding.
The National Rifle Association said at a news conference that it wants Congress to fund armed officers in every American school, breaking its silence on the Connecticut shootings. The idea made sense to some anxious parents and teachers, but provoked outright anger in others.
“Their solution to resolve the issue around guns [in schools] is to put more guns in the equation?” said Superintendent Hank Grishman of the Jericho, N.Y., schools on Long Island, who has been an educator for 44 years. “If anything, it would be less safe for kids. You would be putting them in the midst of potentially more gunfire.”
Where school resource officers are already in place, they help foster connections between the schools and police, and often develop a close enough relationship with parents and children that they feel comfortable coming forward with information that could prevent a threat, said Mo Canady, executive director of the National Association of School Resource Officers.
But an Oklahoma educator who teaches at a school with armed school resource officers described the National Rifle Association’s proposal as a “false solution,” though she’s not opposed to the presence of more police.
(Next page: Why the NRA’s proposal might not work)