In the midst of the shooting at Sandy Hook School in Newtown, CT., Wayne LaPierre, president of the National Rifle Association, publicly issued a call for armed officers in all American schools. Reactions were mixed: some lauded LaPierre for the idea, while others thought he was essentially insane.
My reaction, on the other hand, was quite different from the people heralding LaPierre as either a genius or a kook. My reaction was this:
Wait, some schools don’t have an armed resource officer on their campuses?
I hail from Scarborough, ME, a suburban/slightly rural town of around 20,000 people that’s most famous for its life-sized chocolate moose. A glance through the town’s crime log will show that the vast majority of crimes committed within the town limits consist of shoplifting, operating after suspension, and operating under the influence. It’s a pretty safe, close-knit town. There isn’t a whole lot of crime, especially gun crime. However, since anything is possible and the world is full of sick people, it’s always better to be safe than sorry. This is why my town goes the extra mile to make sure its students are safe: armed security.
The Scarborough School District currently has two resource officers: Officer Plourd is stationed at Scarborough High School, and Officer Pellerin is at Scarborough Middle School. Both are armed and carry a gun with them at all times. Teachers are not permitted to carry firearms in Maine schools (although one former teacher of mine confessed to having a knife hidden in the classroom, just in case), so Officers Plourd and Pellerin are the last line of defense for the students of Scarborough High School and Scarborough Middle School. I don’t have a problem with this. I feel as though their presence makes my already safe school that much safer. The only thing that can stop someone with a gun that intends to kill people is someone else with a gun.
When I found out that other schools in the United States didn’t have resource officers on hand, I was astounded. It seemed like a no-brainer to me. Children should be protected, and what better to protect them than an armed, trained officer?
Critics of placing armed guards in schools (whether the guards are actual police officers, trained security, or retired police officers) argue that there’s a risk of security “acting recklessly” with the gun and harming students or staff members. A quick Google search of “security guard murder” or “security guard murders” shows that it’s far more common for the security guard to be the murder victim, than the perpetrator. No recorded school shooting in any country involved a security guard going on a rampage—if anything, the security guard was the one who ended up dead. It’s not a safe job. Suggesting that an adult who wanted to commit mass murder at a school would go through the trouble of applying for and receiving a job as a school security guard rather than just storm the school with a gun makes very little sense.
I never thought it to be weird or “Stalin-esque” (as a friend of mine decried LaPierre’s plan on Facebook) to have a trained competent police officer armed with a gun in school. Officer Plourd was like any other member of the Scarborough High School faculty. Scarborough High School didn’t have metal detectors or a see-through backpack requirement or anything else that’s been suggested as a security measure—we just had Officer Plourd. The school was sufficiently protected. I am grateful. I never once feared for my life in high school, and that’s how it should be. I wish everyone had the same level of protection myself and the rest of the Scarborough High School community received. It just makes sense.
So thank you, Officer Plourd and Officer Pellerin for the outstanding work you do in making sure that the students of Scarborough High School and Scarborough Middle School are safe and protected. I can’t emphasize this enough.
Christine Rousselle | Providence College | @crousselle