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School Officials Reject Arming Teachers

A meeting of the Safe Schools Partnership Program Thursday produced meaningful discussions on other ways to prevent a repeat of the school shooting in Connecticut.

Law enforcement and school district officials said a meeting of the Safe Schools Partnership program Thursday morning produced meaningful discussions about ways the two groups can work together to improve safety at St. Louis area schools in the wake of last week’s tragic shooting in Newtown, Connecticut.

“It was a very frank and open conversation between law enforcement and school officials about what can we do, what else can we do,” Fitch said in an interview with Patch after the meeting, which involved police departments and school districts from across the St. Louis area.

Fitch made national headlines earlier this week when he put forward the idea of arming school officials as a way of deterring future mass shootings. School leaders at Thursday’s meeting, however, failed to embrace the idea.

“The school officials here overwhelming reject that idea, which was no surprise,” he said. “There were a couple of hands that were raised when I said who was interested pursing that idea, but just a few. At this point, I don’t suspect we will have this conversation again about arming school officials until the next school shooting.”

Instead, Fitch said school officials were interested in implementing improved training on actions teachers can take when there is an active shooter in their building, threat assessments of individual school buildings to identify any security vulnerabilities and securing additional funding for putting officers in area elementary schools.

“That was their main interest,” he said, of the last option. “But their main concern about doing that is how are we going to pay for it?”

The idea of asking voters to approve a specific tax that could fund an added police presence was discussed as well, but Fitch said asking for tax increases is always a “significant hurdle.”

The St. Louis County Police immediately increased its presence at the elementary schools it provides security for following the massacre and Fitch said “that is not going to stop.” This will involve random visits to schools and walk-throughs along with having an officer present at the beginning and end of the school day.

Desi Kirchhofer, Deputy Superintendent with the Parkway School District, said after the meeting that they had no specific plans yet on funding additional school resource officers. Instead, he said the focus will be on working with the St. Louis County Police district and other law enforcement agencies to maintain this increased presence.

The meeting took place at the Parkway School District Instructional Services Center in Creve Coeur and was itself not open to the public. 

Mr. Completely December 21, 2012 at 02:55 PM
"At this point, I don’t suspect we will have this conversation again about arming school officials until the next school shooting.” A chilling and sadly true statement by law enforcement. There is a a new security issue in our schools that must be addressed. The only thing that will address insane criminals entering schol buildings and killing our women and children is if they are met with resistance; a good guy with a gun. There should be a minimum of 2 armed people in every school. The teachers don't want to be the ones, fine. Hire off duty, retired or early disabled police. There is money for early childhood centers, endless sports programs, on and on. What difference does it make if we have Blue Ribbon Schools if our children are at risk of random killing by armed crazy people? This very serious and real threat needs to be addressed now. Gun control is a political football that has been kicked around forever. The offer that was rejected by the schools this week will come back to haunt them if there is a local tragedy resulting in loss of life at a school. I'd imagine it would "trigger" lawsuits that would bankrupt the school system. I guess then our only option will be home schooling.

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