Board takes next step toward armed guards in schools

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PROSPECT — The concept of armed security guards in Region 16 schools is a step closer to reality.

School officials have drafted a new policy to cover armed guards. The Region 16 Board of Education, which oversees schools in Beacon Falls and Prospect, has approved the first reading of that policy and is expected to approve it at its next meeting.

Once the policy is adopted, school board Chair Robert Hiscox said officials will move forward with creating a job description for the armed guards and the hiring process. He said the plan is to have the armed guards in place by the time school starts in the fall.

“Given today’s climate and concern about school safety, I think it’s a very positive move,” Hiscox said

School officials started looking into placing armed guards in schools following the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla. in February. The region’s Interdepartmental Safety Committee, which includes emergency personnel and officials from both towns, supported the idea.

The 2018-19 school budget includes four part-time and one full-time new security guard positions. The positions are on top of three full-time security guards, who are unarmed now, in place at Woodland Regional High School and would allow for an armed guard at each school.

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.

The region’s draft policy states the armed guards must be a retired law enforcement officer in good standing with at least 15 years of experience or a retired law enforcement officer with 10 years of experience who retired in good standing due to a service-connected disability.

The school board will work with the Beacon Falls and Prospect police departments to hire and place the armed guards.

Among the responsibilities for the armed guards, the draft policy states they are the first responders to all emergencies at the schools “to protect life and property,” and they are to “act swiftly and cooperatively” when responding to major disruptions and flagrant criminal offenses, including the possession of a weapon or the use of a weapon on school grounds.

Superintendent of Schools Michael Yamin said the armed guards will have extensive training in how to respond to situations, including engaging an active shooter, as part of the mandatory requirements for the job.

“It’s not something that’s dictated by a policy,” Yamin said about how to respond to a situation. “It’s something that they will have as part of their training repertoire.”

The armed guards will be Region 16 employees and wear identifiable Region 16 uniforms. They will have the authority to detain someone that commits a crime in their presence and then turn that person over to police, the draft policy states.

The armed guards will carry their own personal weapon. They have to meet all the requirements to do so under the law and have all the necessary certifications in place. They may also possess “appropriate security equipment” as necessary, the draft policy states.

Hiscox said it’s possible the armed guards may carry additional equipment, like handcuffs. He said the final details will be fleshed out as the process continues.

“It’s a fluid process but it’s moving forward,” he said.

Editor’s note: This story has been updated from the article published in the June 22 print edition of the Citizen’s News to reflect that the Region 16 Board of Education meeting scheduled for June 27 was canceled after press time.