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Officials react to lawmaker's idea to arm principals

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Carole Boyce

SUWANEE -- If it's up to Republican State Rep. Paul Battles, the duties of principals around Georgia could extend beyond that of school authority figures.

The lawmaker has proposed a bill that would let districts decide whether to give school administrators yet another responsibility: acting as armed guardians of teachers and children. Gov. Nathan Deal recently predicted that the bill will pass the state legislature.

Battles' proposal is the latest in a series of gun-related measures the General Assembly may consider in light of the Dec. 14 school shooting in Newtown, Conn.

Some Gwinnett County education officials are undecided on the issue, while others are outright opposed.

Phillip Beard, for one, is "totally against it."

"The principal's duties are to instruct, educate and oversee our schools," said Beard, chairman of Buford City Schools Board of Education. "I don't want to put that kind of pressure on an administrator. They've got enough going on without putting a gun on them and asking them to walk the wide earth with a weapon."

The chairman for Gwinnett County Public Schools has similar feelings on the matter. While Louise Radloff has not come to a decision on the issue, she said the idea makes her "very uncomfortable."

"I was in an elementary school just this morning, and I just could not imagine a principal walking the halls with a loaded weapon," Radloff said.

Radloff said she's spoken with Gwinnett County residents who think it would be a positive to arm administrators, but she's also talked with law enforcement officials "who indicated that to wear a weapon as a principal in a school with thousands of kids is a major issue in itself."

Carole Boyce, a member of the GCPS school board, said law enforcement officials who already patrol local schools are doing a fine job.

"I feel comfortable with a fully-trained individual like our school SROs (school resource officers), and I know that they do an excellent job," Boyce said.

The district currently has 25 officers who patrol schools throughout the day, including school resource officers, lieutenants and a chief.

School Board Member Mary Kay Murphy said she wished that there could be one in every school all the time. "But there's a great expense associated with that," Murphy said.

Herb Garrett, executive director of the Georgia School Superintendents Association, said he too is in favor of letting law enforcement officials continue to do their jobs, rather than shifting responsibilities to the administrator.

"Speaking as an individual, I would say ... a loaded gun in a school in possession of a person with minimal training? What could possibly go wrong?"

Added Garrett: I'm not sure it's a good idea, on a personal basis." Garrett has spent more than 45 years in the education field in various capacities.

Matt Cardoza, who is the spokesman for the Georgia Department of Education, said the agency is "in favor of well-trained SROs in the classroom, but it's got to be a partnership with funding for such."

According to the GCPS website, the 25 certified police officers are "responsible for providing a safe and secure learning environment for students and staff."

In Thursday's work session for the Gwinnett County Board of Education, Steve Flynt -- associate superintendent for school leadership and operational support -- gave board members an update on current security measures.

"With any emergency preparedness, we communicate with other agencies like county and city police departments," Flynt said.

He said a Safety Task Force currently is reviewing school safety plans on a case by case basis. "SROs are looking at current plans and signing off on them," Flynt said.

Despite current security measures, Boyce said there's always the possibility of danger.

"Unfortunately, our society is such that things can happen no matter what security you have in place ... no matter what you do, there's always some nut out there who will try to do whatever, but our schools are safe places for kids."

Beard agreed.

"There's no way to do anything to predict when these crackpots are going to strike," Beard said. "There's just no way to know it. But our school resource officers are good. They are fully capable of managing any situation that arises."

Comments

Jan 1 year, 7 months ago

Obviously, our state legislature prefers catering to the NRA, funded primarily by gun manufacturers, than using common sense. Though the problems with this are numerous, let me demonstrate two probable scenarios if this is allowed. 1. Principal has student in his office while explaining to him expulsion reasons. Student picks up paper weight and hits principal before he can unsnap holster and pull gun. Student then takes gun and shoots everyone he sees as he exits. 2. Principal hears shots, runs toward then drawing weapon. He sees student exiting a room with a rifle so he shoots, misses and hits another student just inside the classroom. Then we have the costs of training the principals to be reasonably proficient and safety conscious. You would expect those bringing guns to gun shows would understand basic safety; apparently not: http://www.cnn.com/2013/01/19/us/north-carolina-gun-show-shooting This is accidental gun injuries: three in North Carolina, one in Indiana and one in Ohio, all the same day.

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BruceFowler 1 year, 7 months ago

For every accidental gun injury in this country there are 10 instances where guns have saved a life, or stopped a crime. Expand your new past CNN.

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NewsReader 1 year, 7 months ago

I am in favor of arming the schools with Resource Officers. Administrators have too much to do and most likely do not even want to carry on such a responsibility. I do think it's a good idea to separate that responsibility.

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Jan 1 year, 7 months ago

Are you willing to pay for this with higher taxes?

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NewsReader 1 year, 7 months ago

NOPE! I'd fire about ten dozen people like you, rearrange the classes to make room for a few more students, and call it a day. You wouldn't do anything productive short of indoctrinating our children anyway, so it would be a win-win for the school system and a win-win for the children.

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news2me 1 year, 7 months ago

Jan, Say_that_again? Why are you asking someone else to fork over their taxpayers dollars. Do you not pay taxes or contribute your "fair share"?

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TOWG 1 year, 7 months ago

Would someone please explain the difference between a school resource officer and a police officer?

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Why_not 1 year, 7 months ago

PD work for their jurisdiction and resource officers work for the school system.

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gwinnettresident1 1 year, 7 months ago

They are the same except the SRO starts at about 70k

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BufordGuy 1 year, 7 months ago

I am appalled and amazed at the stupidity and close-mindedness of Gwinnett's school "officials", including, of all people, Mr. Beard. I'd expect it from northeastern state's schools, but not Gwinnett's. As they've said on the radio, we protect our elected officials with armed guards, celebrities, and even our money for Heaven's sake, but not our children. You people are sick! Nobody is suggesting giving a gun to a squeemish northern transplant of an official and making them tote a gun. They suggest to find administrators that will do the job and then be trained to do it. Nobody wants an unqualified person to walk the halls with a weapon--wake up Mr. Beard. You education "officials" have built your little kingdoms and believe you have all the answers. You do know that police have no constitutional obligation to protect an individual correct? That is why when seconds count the police are only minutes away. I have talked to real police about these "SRO's". They tell me the only thing an SRO is going to apprehend is maybe a taco. And 25 certified ones to cover the entire district--see the above information about constitutional duties. You take our kids, put them in a closed environment, and THEN POST SIGNS saying it is a "gun free" zone? Sounds like the old ducks-in-a-barrel deal. And, Jan, how many accidental injuries were caused yesterday by people with cars that have been driving for years and you would think should know better? I'll make it easy for you, too, just list the ones in Indiana, North Carolina, and Ohio.

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NewsReader 1 year, 7 months ago

These are the same people that think so highly of their own children, they think nothing of handing them off to be raised by a day care provider who couldn't pass a background check if their life depended on it because it was the cheapest provider they could find. These are the same people that hand their own children off to gov'ment schools to be indoctrinated into the liberal philosophy. Don't be surprised by some of the positions held by Administration Officials as they too have been as much a part of the problem that is institutionalized education in gov'ment schools. Oh, and Jan? Pfffttt! It is entertaining reading some of the rhetoric he posts though.

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Why_not 1 year, 7 months ago

Unless I am mistaken, all SROs in Gwinnett came from Gwinnett PD. I know several and they are very good officers.

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RiggaTony 1 year, 7 months ago

Again, arming administrators is a step in the right direction. But they can't be everywhere in the school at once. The real answer is to allow the students to carry weapons. We don't have to let all of them carry - you could make it a special treat for making straight A's or perfect attendance. Point being you the more weapons we have in a school, the safer the facility will be.

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RiggaTony 1 year, 7 months ago

No, it's not if the children carrying have been taught to be responsible. I was shooting handguns an rifles when I was 4 years old, and was given my own 9mm pistol when I was 6, which I used responsibly. Have you seen the show "The Walking Dead?" The kid on that show is around 7 or 8 and handles a handgun just fine.

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news2me 1 year, 7 months ago

RiggaTony ... Pretending to be a militant lunatic only damages your credibilty as a poster.

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NewsReader 1 year, 7 months ago

Yes, it is stupid. My son can fire a weapon just fine as well. However, there is a huge difference between firing a weapon for sport and hunting and firing a weapon at a human being. I don't trust the judgment of an adolescent to make wise choices where this is concerned. It is too much to ask of any child in IMHO.

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Mack711 1 year, 7 months ago

All for arming certain school perosnal. It does not have to be a pricipal but at least 2 in each school. (No one needs to know who that person is, nor does any of the students need to see the firearm.) These two need to be trained in the use of firearms either by the local police or better yet, the military. There are probably several in the school system that have formal military weapons training. A criminal will always take the path where he knows that there and no firearms to stop him. The school system is one such place, and advertised as such. If a criminal thinks that some one in a school, or any facility for that matter, is armed he will probably by pass it. Should someone attempt something and there is an armed teacher he may be able to stop the criminal from taking so many lives before the police arrive. Direct your attention to this website: http://video.today.msnbc.msn.com/today/50208495#50208495 There were no assualt weapons used in the latest incident according to police reports. They were all hand guns and he broke into the school and did not go to the office to sign in.

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jackson11 1 year, 7 months ago

Ever notice that most all mass shootings occur in places where the good guys are not allowed by the law to act as a defense? Such places are called “gun-free, victim zones”. The bad guys will never follow such rules or laws. Their very nature is to ignore them.

It’s a dishonest tactic to state that anyone wants to arm ALL school personnel. Most school personnel do not have the required fortitude and are not capable of handling defensive weapons responsibly and effectively. SOME are however. SOME would be willing to be trained and authorized, if allowed to do so. An armed defender is one who is willing to place themselves in danger to protect others. Allowing those who are capable and willing to become part of a defensive shield against a deranged attacker gives everyone a better chance of survival. That’s always worth more than having no chance at all and following the popular “lie down like a lamb and be a good little victim” mentality. REFUSE TO BE A VICTIM. FIGHT BACK.

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jack 1 year, 7 months ago

Principals should not carry firearms.

That should be the assistant principal's job as enforcer.

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dmoore 1 year, 7 months ago

Gwinnett already has an SRO officer in every school cluster who has a gun. They have been around for almost 20 years. Many are not retired or former Gwinnett Police officers but all have had law enforcement experience. Some are retired, some just former officers. I know of one who was a former Sheriff in a small town in South Georgia. They are hired by the Gwinnett Bd. of Education not the Gwinnett PD and do a great job.

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gwinnettresident1 1 year, 7 months ago

The only problem with sro is the fact that they are on the way home as soon as high school is released.. That being said elem or middle school is still in session. If they have a fight break out on a high school bus there are no sro's around to help....On their way home...

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BufordGuy 1 year, 7 months ago

One per cluster? You know how many schools and kids are in a cluster??

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news2me 1 year, 7 months ago

Just one SRO per cluster? That is not enough, especially with the sheer size of GCPS. Get rid of some of the top heavy's at ISC and protect our children and our teachers. If we didn't have to educate so many people that don't belong in our schools, that would help too.

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kevin 1 year, 7 months ago

Will, parents won't step up with taking responsibility for their own kids. You all already have teachers doing all the baby-sitting for you. Without any religion allowed in schools, how do you expect teachers to help the troubled kids? The parent's don't lift a finger.

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Why_not 1 year, 7 months ago

Religion isn't banned in schools anymore than prayer is. The Supreme Court ruled that it cannot be led or conducted by school officials. You know, the separation of church and state thing from the Constitution.

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chasmcjr 1 year, 7 months ago

StrongIt is already on the books...

GA Code 16-11-127.1 (c) (6) any person who has been authorized in writing by a duly authorized official of the school to have in such person's possession or use as part of any activity being conducted at a school building, school property, or school function a weapon which would otherwise be prohibited by this Code section. Such authorization shall specify the weapon or weapons which have been authorized and the time period during which the authorization is valid.

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jackson11 1 year, 7 months ago

Good point chasmcjr. Now if only there were someone who had the guts to do what's right and practice that.

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chasmcjr 1 year, 7 months ago

I am just wondering what is meant by 'duly authorized official'? Does that mean school board, adminstrators or maybe even a principal? It's been on he books forever. I wonder if it has ever been used?

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Ashley 1 year, 7 months ago

Lose 1 overpaid AP and then you can hire 3 policeman to patrol the schools.

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