OLD LYME, Conn. — The Lyme-Old Lyme Board of Education voted in favor of arming their security guards Wednesday night.
Many community members addressed the board, calling for more time to discuss the proposal and for all data to be analyzed before making a decision.
“My only request would be to spend more time with this decision,” said one parent and elementary school principal. “Such a big change and how we address this in our schools needs more time.”
A former high school principal and many more parents echoed that call. Ultimately it was denied. Only two board members voted against the proposal.
“I think we need to take more time. I’m not saying yes to it, I’m not saying no to it. I’m saying we need more time,” said board member Martha Shoemaker. “I think there’s a lot of things to look at.”
Other members didn’t agree that more time needed to be spent on the conversation.
“We never think about giving a teacher a book but not giving them the lessons and the trainings on how to teach that history lesson. So why would we give our security guards a polo shirt and think that they’re going to be able to protect us?” board member Christopher Staab said.
The proposal was brought up earlier in the month. Superintendent Ian Neviaser said it will help response time in case of an emergency as they don’t have a local police department. He hopes it will also serve as a deterrent to any potential shooter.
The district asked for community feedback online. They received hundreds of responses both in support and against.
The new initiative is expected to cost the district up to $48,000 a year.
“This is an appropriate step of continuous improvement for the security measures of Region 18,” board member Mary Powell St. Louis said. “This is part of a comprehensive plan. This is not something that was a knee-jerk reaction within the last several weeks.”
A high school student spoke at the meeting Wednesday against arming the guards.
“I am familiar with the two security guards around campus. I feel they’re a friendly presence. I feel that the second they’re carrying around a gun that entire mood changes,” she said.
Some parents acknowledged the struggles with police response time in the community, however, they did not agree arming guards is the best solution.
The superintendent said this was voted on in June because they need time to prepare the guards to be armed by the fall return to school.
Many Connecticut districts already have armed resource officers or guards on property and many more are looking to hire them since the Uvlade shooting including New Milford and Prospect-Beacon Falls.
Board members said this is only part of the solution. The district also has many other safety protocols including easy-close blinds in the classes. Board members say continuing to address mental health is a top priority, but takes time.
There have been concerns about having weapons visible to students at school, but board members reassure families the weapons will be concealed and hidden.
“It’s not that they’re going to be walking around the school with us,” Jennifer Miller said. “If you don’t have something there and you’re there, what are you going to do? You’re going to run away.”
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