The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA

Politics

January 10, 2013

Butler County hires armed guards for schools

By Eli Saslow

The Washington Post


BUTLER, Pa. — Four hundred miles from Sandy Hook Elementary, a Pennsylvania superintendent named Mike Strutt left a morning meeting on Dec. 14 and decided to place his schools on “threat alert.” He was concerned about a copycat attack on the day of the Connecticut shooting. But, as he read reports of the massacre, he started to worry more about something else.

For 20 years he had specialized in school safety, filling three binders with security plans and lockdown drills — all of which felt suddenly inadequate. In the case of an attack, would a “threat alert” do him any good?

He looked out his office window at the snow-covered trees of western Pennsylvania and imagined a gunman approaching one of Butler County’s 14 schools, allowing the attack to unfold in his mind. In came the gunman past the unarmed guards Strutt had hired after Columbine; past the metal detectors he had installed after Virginia Tech; past the intercom and surveillance system he had updated after Aurora.

Strutt stood from his desk and called the president of the Butler County School Board, Don Pringle.

“This could happen here,” Strutt said. “Armed guards are the one thing that gives us a fighting chance. Don’t we want that one thing?”

That question has preoccupied schools across the country since 27 people died in Newtown, Conn., last month, and the emerging solutions reflect the nation’s views on gun control. In a divided America, guns are either the problem or the solution, with little consensus in between. A dozen states have proposed legislation to put armed guards in schools; five others have drafted plans to officially disallow them.

Groups in Utah are training teachers to carry their own guns, Tennessee is hiring armed “security specialists” for $11.50 an hour and the National Rifle Association is working on a plan to arm school volunteers even as teachers gather in protest outside the group’s headquarters.

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