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Thank You, Officer Plourd and Officer Pellerin

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.

NewChristineRousselleIconI 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

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8 Responses

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  1. Tionico
    Feb 01, 2013 - 08:42 AM

    Some of the drawbacks to designated, highly identifiable armed security guards in the schools have been mentioined above. I fail to understand why the ONLY viable solution to the problem is, seeminly, wilfully ignored. Pleaase note: before the Federal Gun Free Schoo Zones Act was passed into law, school shootings were all but nonexistent. Since then we’ve had many. Seems such shooters revel in a “gun free zone”, knowing they will almost certainly NOT be confronted with an armed resistance. Wayne La Pierre is spot on when he declares “the only way to stop a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun”. Every day, some forty million Americans carry about, concealed upon their persons, some form of handgun, and carry them nearly everwhere we go. Banks, restaurants, movie theatres, Starbucks, parks, grocery stores, churches (except in states that foolishly forbid this), gas stations… somewhere near two million times a year, those guns are used to stop a crime in pro=gress… without ever firing a shot. The total cost in public money for this “first responder” service? ZERO. Nothing. WE who carry carry on our own nickel.

    WHY NOT repeal the Federal Gun Free School Zones Act, thus making it possible for any person already lawfully able to carry about on their person a concealed handgun nearly everywhere else to now do so in our schools? We haven’t shot up any kids in all the years we’ve been carrying. What makes you think we suddenly will tomorrow? Then, any teachers, staff, princilals, janotirs playground monitors, etc, COULD carry.. their choice. Who better to put their lives on the ilne for those children now already in their care? What, do we place a higher moral value on a dead teacher and twenty dead children or on an armed teacher who knows how to use her handgun, and one dead perpetrator? We’ve valued the former for years.. let us turn this equation upside down and begin to value the armed and prepared teacher and the dead perpetrator. Since the “bad guys” seem to be bent upon continuing such massacres, will we continue to insist our teachers and children are only suited to be helpless victims? EVEN IF the teacher misses her shot and hits a child instead of the killer, her next round will hit HIM…. we’d then only lose one childn, rather then seven school staff and twenty children… the perps somehow always seem to end up dead anyway, either at their own hand, or by way of “suicide by cop”. If those who so desire are allowed to carry, no one but them need even know. I know dozens of folks who carry everywhere, and yet in any given situation I, who also carry, am never aware of wheter they are. And amongst those I know who are legally allowed to carry, I never know whether any of them are here and now. And I know what to look for.

    THEN, such perps as Adam Lanza would be faced with a true dilemma…. upon considering shooting up any given school, he will have to now assess the possibility of this or that teacher or staff member being armed and able to take him out before he can kill anyone else. If there was an Officer SO and So on duty at a given school, it woujld be a simple matter of finding him, taking him out first, or waitihng till he is at the other end of the building before openting fire. Too high profile, too identifable. But the Lanzas of the country would have to face the odds that Mrs. Clark, Mrs, Higgins, Miss Jones, Mr. Hickock, Janitor Smith, and Principle Madison will ALL not be armed today…… since any of them could be, legally, any of them could be here and now. Hmmmm… of a sudden, Lanza’s situation is not so cearcut. Methinks he will decide against this plan.

    Again, the taxpayer cost would be zero, none of the students would be “in fear” because none would know.. UNTIL such an attack is attempted.. THEN they will all be supremely glad that their trusty and dedicated teacher, Mrs. Smith, was able to access and present her handgun and take out the next Lanza before he could kill any of the students.. OR Mrs. Smith.

    The solution is SO simple, obvious, effective, affordable, organic….. and safe. No one with a background prohibiting them from purchasing a firearm would also be able to take a position as a teacher…. anyone able to become a teacher should also be able to pass the requisite background investigation to purchase a firearm and obtain a permit to carry it. I am certain the surviving family members of those adults at Sandy Hook School would far rather their lost one had been allowed to carry and thereby defend her own life, and those of her charges. I think of that valiant but helpless principal who locked herself and some students into her office… oh how she must have wished she had broken all the relevant laws and had a handgun in her purse at that time…. she, and her charges, would likely be alive today. WHY do we continue to sentence such brave and caring people to such a fate? It would be SO easy to turn the tables….

    Reply
  2. Stephanie Bragdon
    Jan 30, 2013 - 05:01 AM

    Christine,
    As a person who spent her entire childhood in your home town and a fellow graduate of Scarborough High School, I share your sentiments. I entered Scarborough Middle School in 1998 when Officer Eric Greenleaf served as a safety and resource officer. Growing up in a somewhat wealthy small town, I initially assumed Scarborough was one of the first few Maine school systems to staff armed officers in schools due to the resources we may have been fortunate enough to have which many other communities may not have had.
    Many school shootings, thousands of bomb threats, several terrorist attacks, and well over a decade later, the world has changed very much since I entered middle school. It never really occurred to me that so many other school systems wouldn’t have eventually followed towns like ours by staffing armed officers for the protection of students and staff. At this point I sadly do not see it as much of a choice. My fear is not of guns. My fear is that there is no ban on any gun or law in any place which will stop a determined criminal or severely mentally ill person from harming innocent defenseless people. Instead of calling 911 after a school is attacked, wouldn’t it make more sense to have at least one armed officer in every school? I certainly never felt threatened or scared by an officer who was armed at our schools, but I certainly feel scared for a school with out one!

    Reply
  3. Emily Roblee
    Jan 29, 2013 - 06:55 PM

    Great article, Christine. If every American school has an armed security officer, making it more difficult for a random gun rampage to happen, do you think it would be more likely that one of these crazies DOES go through the process of becoming a security guard? Just because he doesn’t have the option of randomly entering the school anymore. Of course background checks would help reduce that possibility. Just a thought.

    Reply
  4. Fred
    Jan 29, 2013 - 06:05 PM

    Some interesting facts on this topic:

    Columbine had an armed guard at the school when the massacre occurred. It was apparently not much of a deterrent in that situation.

    Japan, and most other countries, don’t have armed guards at school. Japan only had 2 gun-related homicides in 2006 while we had over 10,000.

    One study has shown that having armed officers makes students feel less safe at school and can harm their ability to learn.

    Putting armed security guards in every school would cost billions of dollars.

    I’m not saying armed security guards would never be a good idea- but I think it’s not all upside and no downside.

    Reply
    • Bob
      Feb 05, 2013 - 11:46 PM

      Fred, The fact that Columbine H.S. DID have an armed guard is frequently mentioned by those not in favor of such measures. However, I wanted to make sure that you knew the facts of that situation. At Columbine, the guard was under strict rules of engagement that he was NOT allowed to enter the school. He DID in fact exchange fire with one of the assailants from across the parking lot. I don’t think there is any way to make our schools 100% safe from a determined psychopath but isn’t SOME safety better than none?

      Reply
      • Fred
        Feb 07, 2013 - 05:48 AM

        I’m aware of the NRA position on Columbine’s guard, and they talk about how all the rules of engagement were changed after that incident. What did not change, was the fact that an armed guard was not a deterrent in that situation, which is often held as one of the benefits of armed guards.

        Secondly, I agree 100% safety is impossible but we should still strive for what safety we can have. My point is that Japan have made their schools MUCH more safe from shootings (compare school shootings in Japan to the USA), and we should consider their much more effective solutions rather than a very unproven solution proposed by the gun lobby.

  5. Christopher Rushlau
    Jan 29, 2013 - 03:33 PM

    Scarborough is one of those towns in the process of being taken over by out-of-staters (“over-sexed, over-paid, and over here” as the English supposedly said about US troops during WWII). I knew a small-scale building contractor who told me he’d been before the planning board there and none of the members had lived in Maine more than five years–and they were planning the town’s future in terms of land-use.
    I’ll bet people in Scarborough point to those two officers (isn’t “Plourde” spelled with an “e” at the end?) and say, “That’s the price we pay to keep the new people from freaking out.” I’ll bet that’s what the two officers say.
    Paranoia is not just politically correct. It’s good business.

    Reply
    • Christine Rousselle
      Jan 29, 2013 - 05:26 PM

      No, Officer Francis Plourd spells his name exactly as I spelled it. I’ve known his daughter for years. Scarborough has used a resource officer since at least 2002–when I first entered the middle school.

      Reply

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