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Bedford Schools Ask: Are Armed Guards The Answer?

Since the Newtown shootings, some parents in the Bedford Central School District have expressed interest in installing an armed security officer in front of every school.
Since the Newtown shootings, some parents in the Bedford Central School District have expressed interest in installing an armed security officer in front of every school. Photo Credit: Liz Button

BEDFORD, N.Y. — After witnessing the terrible carnage at Sandy Hook Elementary School two weeks ago, some parents in the Bedford Central School District think installing an armed security officer in front of every school is the best way to ensure student safety.

District officials said they have been hearing from parents who, after the shootings, have doubts about leaving their child’s safety in the hands of schools.

Pound Ridge Elementary School parent John Sauro handed out a petition at a recent security meeting convened by the district. The petition called for installing an armed police officer in every school, a solution he said was endorsed by two anti-terrorism security experts he personally consulted.

“These are our children. At the end of the day, it’s our decision how we protect our children. Bottom line, end of story,” Sauro said.

Since 2005, Fox Lane High School has employed Bedford Police Officer William Smith as its school resource officer, but in addition to duties providing physical security for students, a school resource officer also must devote time as an expert in youth concerns.

Richard Hooker, of Mount Kisco, who has two children in Bedford schools, said whether or not there is an officer, what happened in Newtown, Conn. is a  rare occurrence.

“I really feel that this school district and the police department do an outstanding job, and I feel safe that my kids are going to go home and tell me what a great day they had,” he said.

Other parents were more skeptical, like Pound Ridge’s Joe Malichio, who has three children in the system, two less than 10.

“I feel they’re safe, but I would feel safer. You’re telling me you wouldn’t feel safer … if [Pound Ridge Police] Chief [David] Ryan was there in the school?” Malichio said.

Superintendent Jere Hochman, Bedford Police Chief William Hayes and Fox Lane High School Principal Joel Adelberg assured the audience they were assessing security needs in the schools and were open to all suggestions for improving student safety.

Assistant Superintendent for Business Mark Betz said that the proposed capital plan already addresses a number of safety concerns, especially in the middle school which has six outside buildings.

Hochman said the district will implement an emergency text message system in January, and is considering adding security cameras, enhancing school bus security, looking into panic button technology, and considering placing a security officer in the elementary schools.

Hochman said that the issue of armed guards remains on the table, but he has concerns. When viewed through the lens of a younger child, seeing an officer with a gun, “could send the message that maybe it’s not so safe here.”

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