Armed Security at Octorara Area School District

SRO BadgeYesterday evening, I attended the Safety Task Force Meeting at the Octorara Administration Office. The meeting included parents concerned about school security, and an update on what is going on with grants and other issues. Dr. Newcome moderated the discussion.

I felt it was necessary to engage with a group that has passionately and religiously worked towards the goal of acquiring an armed School Resource Officer. It was important they understood where I was at this moment, and give them the opportunity to influence my opinion. I can’t say that I am any closer to supporting armed security at Octorara, but the conversation created solutions that had not previously been considered, and are ones that I could be more comfortable supporting.

What we absolutely need is more people involved in this discussion, for and against. Do you believe that the only peace of mind you will have, with your kids at school, is armed security? Do you think armed security is a step too far? Email the School Directors in your Region, and Dr. Newcome, with your comments and concerns. It doesn’t have to be anything more than “I support the armed security proposal,” or “I do not support the armed security proposal.”

The reality is this debate completely revolves around “what-ifs” and statistics. On one hand, we know school is the safest place for your child to be, and Octorara is a safe school. The statistics show, with a high probability, that a homicide or mass shooting is extremely unlikely at Octorara. However, no matter how unlikely, it is still possible. Statistics cannot tell us absolutely what will happen tomorrow. If (the big if) this kind of occurrence happens, immediately it will be a matter of shoulda, coulda, woulda.

This is why it is so very important to get public input. Every day, our society makes choices of value vs cost. There are many actions government could do to make our lives safer, and more secure, but it doesn’t. Hundreds of lives could be saved each year if the maximum speed limit was reduced to 25 mph. We don’t do it, and we know with certainty it would save lives.

Therefore, in a situation with little probability, and a case of “you’ll need it when you need it,” it is very important for the community to speak out one way or another. Are you willing to pay more in taxes for a possible but improbable what-if? How much should peace of mind cost?

At yesterday’s Safety Task Force Meeting, the idea of a police substation on campus developed. The notion was for the District to provide a local police department with space, and they use the space as an office to do paperwork. Doesn’t sound like much, but it really is a great compromise. It provides peace of mind that there is an added police presence, and faster response times, without turning the District into (what some may consider) an armed camp. Best of all, it is all done at the cost of some space. If it can be done, it could be a win-win.

I don’t think there is any doubt, in anyone’s mind, that I am a budget hawk. There has to be an absolute need to spend tax dollars, and I am not convinced at this point there is a need for armed security at Octorara. One day, in the near future, every board member will have to commit to a vote. If you want to make an impact on that decision, I ask you participate in the discussion by taking the time to email or call the School Directors.

The Safety Task Force Meeting is every first Tuesday, at 6:30 p.m. in the District Office Conference Room. Everyone in the community is invited to attend.

5 thoughts on “Armed Security at Octorara Area School District

  1. I am not in favor of armed security at Octorara. I am not aware of a single study that shows this to be an effective answer to protecting kids in school. Studies do show that these sporadic violent incidents are just as frequent in churches as they are in schools, yet there is no movement to have armed guards in our churches. The one local school that did have such an attack has not moved to have armed guards or any of the other Amish schools anywhere even though they do not even have the minimum security like Octorara has already. Even if you were to have an armed guard at every door of every school building all a sniper has to do is get on the bus at the last stop in Parkesburg and open fire. I think we should look at how many teaching and support staff positions have been eliminated over the past 3-5 years and once all of the teaching positions have been reinstated, then we could look at whether there is extra money for this cause. The other concern I have is guards will find ways to justify their continued existence over time and this “service” need will continue to grow. Even if there is a grant to help defray costs now, once the grant goes the entire costs will shift. I say this is not necessary.

  2. Please read about the “schools to prison pipeline” that is becoming more and more of an issue as schools relieve themselves of the normal job of discipline and rely on local police and armed guards. Here is one article but there are so many more; http://www.npr.org/blogs/codeswitch/2013/11/05/243250817/fla-school-district-trying-to-curb-school-to-prison-pipeline
    Our state has its own horror story regarding this where a judge was exposed as a paid accomplice in this scheme.Normal student misbehavior was taken up by the justice system instead of administration officials and students whose fighting or pot smoking (or other issues common in middle and high school) would have been cause for detention or suspension from school found themselves going to a juvenile detention center, a FOR profit detention center that gave generous kick backs to this judge.
    Remember too that we now know a young person’s mind does not fully develop until 25 years of age and impulse control is one of the last things that mature. As a parent I want an educated teacher or administration employee handling my child rather than a paid bouncer or hired gun.

  3. (1) As in so many things, the devil is in the details: one officer might provide a ‘sense’ of security; more would be unaffordable. (2) The idea of a police substation certainly sounds intriguing. (3) Where are comments from people advocating for this…where are their arguments and evidence? (4) I don’t know about OASD’s bussing contractor, but most school busses still don’t have safety belts, 40 years after they were required in passenger cars. So where is the greater danger and the larger threat? From some one-in-a-million lunatic, or kids riding unsafe in busses?

    • Good points Chuck, although I don’t like the substation idea either. The advocates for this issue are taking their position directly to the board and committees and they have a very attentive ear, although I do “sense” some hesitancy on the part of “some” board members. I do believe that once you have one officer, you will start to see issues arise that once were disciplinary issues and now they would be rising to a more legal standard of misbehavior.
      I like your thought on accidents. I think almost every family from Octorara has a family member that has been touched by an accident during the past 50 years, while none of those families has been touched by a terrorist. I think children are much more likely to be harmed or killed in a car accident then a terrorist incident. However, we wouldn’t advocate to never put our children in a car, even though that would actually eliminate the risk. However, we also know that each mile per hour over the speed limit we drive exposes us and our children to an increasing risk of an accident. How many of us actually drive NO higher than the posted speed limit all the time, even with our kids in the car? How many of these parents continue to talk on the phone while driving their kids around? If you really want to reduce the “real” risks to your children, you can be much more effective by driving by the rules of the road, never exceeding the posted limit, always following at a safe distance and never talking on the phone (even hands free) while driving.
      By putting armed officers in the school there is absolutely no risk reduction. I still say we should not reduce teachers and assistants on one hand and hire armed officers on the other. This is a bad trade off in “my opinion.”

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