Marion County OR Nov 6 2014 After a work session last week that involved input from about 50 community members, the North Marion School Board is one step closer to making a decision on ramping up security on campus, which would likely include arming a security officer.
The biggest topic discussed at the Oct. 27 meeting was whether Caleb Barnes, the district’s director of security for two years, should be armed with a weapon in the event that there was an active shooter on campus.
The district is looking at $36,275 in security costs, including $14,885 for an armed security officer. Other upgrades the district is looking into doing is $15,000 worth of video surveillance, security latches at the elementary school ($3,000), the alarm system ($1,890) and signage, lighting and fencing ($1,500). This would be taken
“These weren’t in the budget because it was part of the local option levy that didn’t pass in the spring,” explained Superintendent Boyd Keyser.
There would continue to be costs needed for keeping the officer armed, including training, equipment maintenance and liability insurance.
The board decided to go this route partly because its rural location could mean a delayed police response in the case of an emergency, but also in light of recent school shootings. The night of the meeting, the Seattle-area school shooting just a few days earlier was fresh in people’s minds.
“It’s a shame that we’re having this conversation,” James Moore, a board member, said. “But it comes down to this: Do you feel this is a safe place?”
The meeting allowed audience members to ask questions and make comments regarding the proposed changes, and many voiced their support for arming a security official.
In fact, Keyser asked for people’s opinions on whether the district should have armed security by the number of fingers they hold up, five indicating the highest amount of support. Most in the audience displayed their hands holding up four or five fingers.
“I think we should open it up for all teachers (to be armed), if they’re willing to go through the proper training,” one citizen commented. “The more arms on the same level, the safer our kids are going to be.”
Keyser responded saying it’s unlikely other staff members will be armed because of the costs associated with liability insurance.
Keyser provided a slideshow that listed the pros and cons of having a director of security versus a school resource officer. But one audience member disagreed that the relationships that have been built with students by the director of security is a pro.
“I think having someone armed is a con, not a pro, because when students see someone armed, that sparks fear,” she said. “Caleb, I know you’re proud of your relationship with the kids, but arming you would tarnish that.”
Another community member, who has been in law enforcement, echoed a similar sentiment.
“He may have a relationship with students now, but five years from now they will see him armed and that relationship will change,” he said. “I’m for the armed security guard but there are relationships that go away with that. If you don’t see it, you don’t think about it (a concealed weapon).”
Other community members also vocalized their support for the security officer carrying a concealed weapon.
“I support concealed carry because a gun can put people off,” Dan Estes, a community member, said. “I think a gun should be a last resort and only if something terrible has gone wrong.”
Most who commented seemed to agree that the weapon would be a last resort and that prevention is the most important tactic the district could employ.
“By arming someone, that doesn’t guarantee anything,” Ty Brack, a district employee, said. “The most important piece is that you need to say something when something is out of the ordinary.”
Keyser said he was pleased with the way the evening turned out.
“I appreciate the civil way everyone has been communicating, even when we disagree,” he said.
The district plans to survey parents during parent teacher conferences later this month and is investigating the possibility of forming a sub-committee to make recommendations to the school board. The board isn’t expected to make a decision until December or January. Pending approval, the district could arm its director of security as soon as February. pamplinmedia.com