Unarmed guards proposal could be tabled for now

January 23, 2013 5:37:49 PM PST
The Wake County School Board has decided to delay action on whether or not to place an unarmed private security guard in every elementary school -- at least for the time being. But some say the proposal could be tabled for now.

The board was considering hiring Allied Barton Security, which already provides security officers for high schools across the district.

They were expected to vote on the matter Tuesday, but decided to table it because three board members were absent from the meeting. The board also said they want more time to research the proposal.

If approved, the measure would cost the district around $2.3 million a year.

"The amount of money that's being allocated to this could be put to such better use," Cary High School Junior Elena Watts said during Tuesday night's school board meeting.

During the meeting, one parent suggested that schools would be safer with more educational professionals rather than security guards.

"The purpose of these security officers would be to lock all doors to the school, which is currently not being done in all of our schools, "Wake Schools Safety Director Russ Smith has said.

It would be similar to what is done at school system's headquarters -- an unarmed Allied Barton Security guard sits at the front desk, admits visitors and monitors campuses through surveillance cameras.

However, critics -- including school board member Debra Goldman who was absent from Tuesday night's meeting -- have said it's not good enough.

And at least one Wake County commissioner has said he would rather see armed guards patrolling campuses.

"Can't see where an unarmed security officer would protect a child," Wake County Commissioner Phil Matthews said. "What are they going to do to stop them?"

He also said if the officers are not armed, then they're not "true" security officers -- calling unarmed security guards a "feel good" security.

Wake County school board member Kevin Hill said the idea of armed guards is a bad idea.

"I'd like to ask them how many of them have been a high school, elementary ... middle school principal," Hill said. "I'm not sure I would go along with that at an elementary setting. It's a very volatile discussion."

Meanwhile, a new group spawned by security guard debate, called P.A.S.S. (Parents for Armed Security in Schools) released a statement Tuesday evening commending the school board for trying to come up with a solution, even though they said unarmed school security is not the answer.

The group also commended Goldman for "lending her voice to the cause and for standing up for our children; her fearlessness is what is missing in politics today."

P.A.S.S. also said Commissioner Matthews "touched our hearts by showing his support to provide a real solution to protect all of children."

The group said they will hold a town hall meeting before the school board votes on the issue.

Meanwhile, the Wake Schools security plan misses the target according to the state's new secretary for public safety.

Kieran Shanahan has his own ideas about securing schools-- including the use of retired police officers or on-duty Highway Patrol officers. He told ABC11 that unarmed guards won't cut it.

"I think it makes little sense to put resource officers in the school that are not armed if your rationale for doing so is safety," said Shanahan. "Would you add police officers and not give them bullets?"

Shanahan's own plan will be out in 30 days.

Now the question is, if the plan is dead altogether?

School Board Chairman Keith Sutton told ABC11 that he does not foresee the proposal coming back up for a vote any time soon.

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