Chapel Hill Herald Editorial: Officers in elementary schools? Tough call

Dec. 22, 2012 @ 04:36 PM

The tragic mass shooting incident in Connecticut last week has prompted a range of responses. Police department administrators and school officials have been undoubtedly taking a close look at safety issues as they relate to elementary schools.

Officials from Orange County Schools have considered placing school resource officers – police – in local elementary schools.

Those officers have already been in place in middle schools and high schools. Officers from the Orange County Sheriff’s Office and Hillsborough Police Department have made their presence known at elementary schools in the days before the holiday break. Over the break, school officials and police officials were planning to discuss whether to continue to place those school resource officers in elementary schools.

In a statement issued to parents, the schools cited security and emergency preparedness measures that were to be taken, including school safety plans; training to deal with threats; emergency drills; video surveillance; and other efforts.

Durham Public Schools Superintendent Eric Becoats said in a voice mail message to parents and staff that safety is a top priority. “I want to assure you that each of our schools has safety procedures in place and we work closely with law enforcement and emergency responders to immediately address emergency situations if they occur,” he said. “We regularly review and update those safety procedures.”

A senior researcher and evaluation coordinator for the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction, Ken Gaddis, told The Herald-Sun’s Wes Platt this week that as far as he knows, no elementary schools in North Carolina currently host school resource officers.

There is no doubt that the impulse to deploy those police officers to Orange County elementary schools comes from a good place. It is proper to wonder, though, whether that is a worthwhile use of police resources. The events in Connecticut were beyond tragic, but elementary schools in the United States are very safe, by any measure. Officers might lend a degree of security, but they cost money, and they also necessarily make a school somewhat less inviting. We trust that school and police officials will let a little time pass and consider all of the angles to the issue before settling on a decision going forward.