Parents Speak Up On Safety
Armed Staff A Hot Topic At Forum
Posted: January 17, 2013
QUICKSBURG — Several Shenandoah County parents spoke out in favor of allowing school staff to carry weapons during a safety forum on Tuesday.
The forum at North Fork Middle School in Quicksburg was the second of three scheduled by Shenandoah County Schools.
While Shenandoah County Commonwealth’s Attorney Amanda Wiseley, who spoke at the forum, said current statutes only allow law enforcement officers to be armed on school property, many in attendance indicated they wished that wasn’t the case.
The forum began with a presentation by Superintendent B. Keith Rowland outlining challenges and possible solutions to solving issues of school safety.
Rowland explained that any change would not be without cost, and that money would have to come from an allocation by the Shenandoah County Board of Supervisors. That, he said, could mean increased taxes.
“What you have to decide tonight is what you want to support, what you want me to present to the [Shenandoah County] School Board,” Rowland said.
Reconfiguring school entrances, installing devices that would allow teachers to lock doors quickly from the inside and adding more school resource officers were all offered as suggestions to improve safety.
Gary Morris Jr., a parent from Mount Jackson, said he had an extensive background in security and felt that some of the ideas Rowland presented had merit, while others he said would be a waste of money.
“I think the solution is more armed officers in every school,” Morris said. “If they know there are two or three armed officers in the building, [an intruder] knows his odds are terrible and he’s not going to go there.”
Rowland mentioned that the governor does have legislation that would permit certain school staff members to carry guns, but “we aren’t in favor of that.”
“You should be. You should be in favor of that,” replied one audience member.
Morris asked Rowland why he didn’t support arming staff members if they were properly trained.
“There are things such as the security of the weapons. I’ve seen situations where people have had weapons taken from them and used in other ways,” Rowland said. “I’m not sure that’s the way we want to go. I’m not sure we want to go back to the Wild, Wild West.”
Some parents who said they had permits to carry concealed weapons volunteered to patrol school perimeters.
“I know it comes up,” Wiseley said. “[People say] ‘I have a concealed-carry permit, why can’t I provide security?’ Well, because we’ll have to arrest you.”
Other ideas included expanding a watchdog program in place at some county elementary schools in which parents can volunteer to spend time at the schools and act as extra eyes and ears.
Kelly Moomaw, an audience member, said she would not oppose higher taxes if it meant having the funds to hire more school resource officers.
“I’m a serious advocate for SROs,” she said. “If you want the biggest bang for your buck, that’s the way to go.”
Rowland said safety improvements will be a discussion item at the next School Board meeting in February and at a joint meeting between the School Board and Board of Supervisors after that.
The final Shenandoah County school safety forum is scheduled for 7 p.m. Tuesday at Peter Muhlenberg Middle School.
Contact Kaitlin Mayhew at 574-6290 or firstname.lastname@example.org