Armed guards to be on school board’s agenda

REGION 16 — The Board of Education is slated to discuss a proposal to hire armed security guards at its March 28 meeting.

Superintendent of Schools Michael Yamin has proposed hiring four part-time security guards in his 2018-19 budget proposal, which he presented to the school board last week.

A shooting in February at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla. that killed 17 people prompted local officials to reflect on Region 16’s safety protocols and procedures.

State law passed after the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown in 2012 requires armed personnel on school grounds to be either police officers that retired in good standing or active police officers. They must also complete yearly training, under the law.

Yamin said the plan is to work with the Beacon Falls and Prospect police departments to hire part-time officers who will work as guards in the school on a rotating basis.

There are currently three unarmed security guards that work at Woodland Regional High School. Yamin said one is a retired police officer who would be allowed to be an armed guard under state law.

With the addition of the part-time guards, Yamin said the region, which is comprised of Beacon Falls and Prospect, would have armed guards covering all four schools in the district each school day.

The part-time guards are estimated to cost about $51,000, according to budget documents.

Yamin said the job description for the armed guards would be the same as the guards currently working for the district, with the exception that the person would be armed and expected to engage an active shooter in the schools.

The proposal drew concerns and support from the public at last week’s board meeting.

Richard Blanc, a member of the Prospect Town Council, applauded the region and asked officials to act before it’s too late.

“I ask you to please not drag your feet on this, getting this done, as I do not want Prospect or Beacon Falls to be the next Sandy Hook or Parkland,” Blanc said. “Don’t ever think it cannot happen here.”

Paul Cummings, a Beacon Falls resident, raised a long list of questions and concerns with the proposal, including whether officials did a risk assessment for a gun accidentally going off, what’s the impact on the district’s liability of having armed guards, and how would an armed guard would respond to an unarmed threat at a school.

Cummings, who said he didn’t favor the plan, also raised concerns that a gun could be taken away from a guard.

“We need to be reasonable,” he said.

Yamin said school officials will work with the police departments to develop the policies and procedures for armed guards.

“We’re not foolish enough to think we have that knowledge,” he said.

School board Chair Robert Hiscox said the proposal deserves its own discussion by the board.

The proposal is slated to be on the agenda for the March 28 meeting as a separate item for discussion. The meeting is scheduled for 7 p.m. at district office in Prospect.

“If we’re going to do it, let’s do it right the first time,” board member David Rybinski said.