Genesee County Schools in Michigan Have Had Armed Presence Since 1958

Armed security guard Howard Anderson, from Phoenix Protective Corporation, patrols South Ridge Elementary School as students are released for the day, Thursday, Jan. 17. (Photo: AP/The Columbian, Steven Lane)

Shortly after the tragic shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., it was suggested that perhaps teachers should carry guns at school or some sort of armed presence should be on the premises.

TheBlaze has told you about schools that already allow such a practice — a Texas school begun doing so in 2007 and just this year an Ohio school board voted unanimously to allow custodial staff to carry firearms. But these are both rather recent allowances — not much of a case study. Over the weekend, MLive took at look at school districts within a Michigan County that have had an armed presence since 1958.

The Flint School District in Genesee County is reported to be one of the first in the nation to have a regular police presence. Some of the schools employ armed security guards. This means someone carrying a firearm as a protective measure could be at any school within the county at any time.

“We were certainly a pioneer in that regard,” district spokesman Bob Campbell said according to MLive.

While a police presence isn’t the same as arming teachers or custodial staff, it’s worth taking a look at a school that have had firearms on campus for several decades.

After Sandy Hook and then after returning to class with the new year, schools in the area encountered several false calls about shots fired and other threats. This shows even with an armed presence, they’re not exempt from these unsettling hoaxes. But they are quick to respond with plans and protocols long in place. MLive also reported that they’re hoping to work even more with law enforcement and other school districts so security plans are even more cohesive.

Here’s what MLive reported on one parent’s perspective about gun-toting police being on school campuses:

Flint resident Latasha Veal, who has a daughter in 12th grade at Flint Southwestern Classical Academy, said it is comforting to know there are police officers on patrol at the school.

“Half the time I’m at work, even when I’m at home, I worry about what’s going on in the schools,” Veal said.

Veal said the things she sees in the news, like the Sandy Hook shooting, make her worry about what it would be like to have something like that happen at her child’s school.

“I just don’t want anything to happen to my kid, or anyone else’s kid, for that matter,” Veal said. “So to have them here, that takes a burden off me.

“I wish there could be more.”

A quick search of other local news coverage regarding armed protection at schools shows that many across the country are at least considering adding it. The Ridgefield School District in southwest Washington announced it will add at least two armed guards to each of its schools. Armed guards in Hernando County, Fla., schools were removed last week after being put in place after Sandy Hook. The superintendent said he doesn’t expect that they will return due to the district’s lack of budget for them.

But does the presence of armed protection actually cut down on school violence? Barbara Raymond, the director of schools and neighborhoods policy for The California Endowment, the state’s largest health foundation, wrote recently on this question:

Despite the growing number of school police officers, research that I and others have conducted has been inconclusive about whether having armed security on campus improves safety.   While Sandy Hook Elementary School didn’t have an armed guard, Columbine High School did and so did Virginia Tech.   In fact, an armed campus guard was a victim in the most recent shooting at Virginia Tech in December 2011 and armed members of the military were not able to prevent the shootings at Ft. Hood.  The mere presence of armed guards does not guarantee public safety.

While we don’t know whether school police make schools safer, we do know that having them on campus means more young people are being charged with crimes. Police are not typically trained in youth development and child psychology and how to best respond to misconduct, sometimes leading to an escalation of conflict on campuses and charges being filed for misbehavior that used to be handled by the principal or a school counselor.  One study found that campuses with school resource officers had nearly five times the rate of arrests for disorderly conduct as schools without an officer, even when accounting for school poverty.  And in Los Angeles,  in the last three years school police issued 33,000 tickets to young people that required them to go to court – with 40% of those tickets going to kids younger than 14.

Armed guards, which have been long been in schools, also doesn’t address the discussion of arming teachers themselves. Many commenting on MLive’s article stated that while they would support armed protection, they wouldn’t want it to be the teachers.

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