Unarmed private security guards are expected to become a permanent fixture at Wake County elementary schools following last month’s Connecticut school massacre.
The Wake County school board is scheduled to vote Tuesday on an $835,000 contract to pay for one security guard to be assigned to each of the district’s 105 elementary schools the rest of this school year.
School board chairman Keith Sutton said Saturday that school administrators are budgeting $2.375 million into the 2013-14 school year budget to keep the guards year-round.
“This gives us some sort of a security presence at all our elementary schools,” Sutton said.
The additional security is the result of a districtwide review that was launched after a gunman killed 20 children and six school staff members last month at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut. An update on the school security review will be given to the school board Tuesday.
Following the Connecticut school massacre, school districts nationally have been debating what to do with elementary schools, which typically don’t have security guards.
Wake, like most school districts, only has armed law enforcement personnel, called school resource officers, at high schools and middle schools. These officers are jointly paid for by the school district and the law-enforcement agencies.
A handful of Wake elementary schools, mostly magnet schools in Southeast Raleigh, already have an unarmed private security guard assigned to them. Based on the review, Sutton said school staff recommended that all the elementary schools have this same level of security.
The National Rifle Association has called for an armed guard at every elementary school following the Connecticut shooting. Wake isn’t going that far.
“They aren’t trained law enforcement,” Sutton said of the private guards. “They aren’t armed. They’re a different sort of deal. But I think they can be effective.”
School security staff are recommended contracting with Allied Barton Security, which already provides security at all the high schools and the district’s headquarters in Cary. Those high school guards work with the school resource officers and patrol the parking lots.
The new guards would begin at the elementary schools March 1. Sutton said they need to give Allied Barton time to hire the additional staff.
The decision to place the guards at elementary schools was criticized by Jason Langberg, an attorney for Advocates for Children’s Services, a project of Legal Aid of N.C. Langberg, who represents students facing suspensions and criminal charges, called it a political gesture and said there’s no proof that the extra security will work.
“I guess it’s time to start treating our elementary school students as criminals,” he said.