Conn, school districts talk arming security guards

Many Connecticut school districts are considering or looking to hire armed security guards for an extra layer of protection after recent mass shootings.

LYME, Conn. — Connecticut school districts are debating whether to have armed security officers on site after recent mass shootings across the country including at an elementary school in Texas that killed 21 staff and students.

The Board of Education of Regional School District 18, Lyme-Old Lyme, will be voting on June 15th to arm their guards or keep them without weapons. Each of the three campuses currently has an unarmed, retired law enforcement official. Superintendent Ian Neviaser says this would help in an emergency.

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“We are proposing, due to our concerns over police response time, and I don’t say that as a fault to the police, that’s simply just a matter of reality that the police can’t get to a school immediately,” he said . “If you look at any of these school shootings or any mass shooting, and we have been to a number of workshops studying this over the years, these things really last for only a few minutes.”

Neviaser said this would also serve as a deterrent to any potential shooter. With the goal of stopping the threat quickly, he says having someone on the property who can do so would help protect the more than 1,600 students and staff.

Lyme-Old Lyme isn’t the only district in the state looking at this. In New Milford, the police department is looking to hire three armed school security officers. Regional School District 16, Prospect-Beacon Falls, is also looking for three armed security guards. Regional School District 15, Middlebury-Southbury, is hiring an armed security officer.

Neviaser said they have already started the process in anticipation the proposal does get passed. He said they are working with the police academy to get training for the guards.

“The reason why we want to do this in June is because there are a number of steps that we need to take if this is approved to make sure that our security people have all the requirements in place for the state of Connecticut by the time school opens again late August,” he said. “They will need to have gun permits through the state.”

They are asking for the community’s input ahead of their meeting. So far, hundreds of submissions have been entered both for and against.

“If someone wants to do violence against our children we need people armed and willing to engage as quickly as possible,” one wrote.

A staff member and parent said they would support the officers having weapons. Old Lyme parent of two Joseph Dagata thinks so too.

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“I feel that almost like a police presence, an armed security guard would be more of a deterrent for anyone even thinking about doing harm,” the fifth and first-grade father said. “I have no concerns if a trained professional, somebody with their license and everything else who’s certified I’m fine with it.”

Community members told FOX61 they don’t support the idea. One said they aren’t in favor, but understand the need.

Many have also voiced their disapproval through submissions.

“This is a band-aid which does not address the root of our societal problems, and doubling down as guns as a response does not strike me as reasonable,” one wrote.

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Another said the district should work with the police to improve response time.

The superintendent said there are many parts of this from arming guards to continuing to address mental health. If passed, he anticipates armed guards would be in place for a while but they would evaluate as needed.

Tony Black is a multi-media journalist at FOX61 News. He can be reached at [email protected]. Follow him on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

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