House lawmakers show little interest in armed protection of school children

Michael Bielawski/TNR

SCHOOL CAMPUS PROTECTION: Robert Evans, manager of Organizational Assessment and K-12 Services for Margolis Healy, spoke to the House Education Committee on Wednesday about actions schools can take to protect against mass shootings.

MONTPELIER, Vt. — If the school safety measures discussed Wednesday in the House Education Committee are any indication, there will likely be no immediate armed resistance to protect children if an active shooter steps onto a school campus in Vermont.

Robert Evans, manager of Organizational Assessment and K-12 Services for the security company Margolis Healy, gave most of the testimony heard by lawmakers.

Among the points discussed, Evans said 95 percent of the state’s private, public and independent schools have been visited by law enforcement since Gov. Phil Scott made a request for school safety assessments following the school shooting in Parkland, Fla., in February. He said most discussions were focused on prevention rather than armed resistance.

“We base where we’re going to spend our dollars and spend our time on probabilities — we look at what’s the most likely thing for folks to experience and what they might be exposed to from a threat,” Evans said. “Is it an active shooter? Is it a violent intruder? I’m going to sit here and tell you that the probability of that is extremely low that that type of event will take place.”

According to Evans, a community forum in Essex this week attended by about 70 parents and first responders dealt largely with how to prevent school shootings.

“None of it was guns, none of it was securing our school,” he said. “It was all about making sure that our kids feel safe, know they are safe, have a principal or superintendent or best friend that they can talk to.”

Rep. Peter Conlon, D-Cornwall, one of the 11 members of the committee, questioned how a community can expect to stop a determined shooter. He referenced the recent shooting plot foiled in Fair Haven, Vt., noting that it was mere good fortune that a New York woman tipped off law enforcement.

“It seems like there wasn’t anything that anybody could do until this young woman from New York said ‘this guy poses a threat,’ and that’s only based on what I read and what I hear, not what goes on behind the scenes,” Conlon said.

He added that no one else appeared to know of the potential threat. In response, Evans reiterated that once the threat was identified, all the right actions were taken.

“In this case, once that information was made known to specific officials, right away certain things got done,” Evans said. “Cops got notified, state police was involved, fusion centers are getting all the social media data mining and very quickly things are happening behind the scenes to make sure that person doesn’t have an access to the school once the threat has been identified.”

As for how to defend against an active shooter, lawmakers spent little time discussing armed resistance, even though Evans listed it as a possibility.

“Does every classroom door have a locking mechanism? Does every school lock the doors throughout the business day? What type of security technology solutions are schools using? Do you have an SRO [an armed school resource officer]? Do you have cell-phone coverage that’s reliable in your area?

“Those are the types of questions that we now will be able to take a look at, have the data about where we are for percentages, and then be able to identify where those future priorities are for where the funding would go.”

Currently, about 30 schools in Vermont have school resource officers. Evans told True North it’s up to local school boards to pursue that security option, and that an SROs can cost between $70,000 and $130,000 per year. He also said if schools want to consider using existing school staff, significant training would be required.

Rep. David Sharpe, D-Bristol, chair of the committee, suggested SROs could have a negative impact on school climate.

“The incidence of minorities being suspended and expelled from school are far greater in schools that had SROs,” Sharpe said.

A similar claim was made Tuesday in the Senate Judiciary Committee, when Deputy Education Secretary Amy Fowler told senators that SROs might result in increased suspensions, expulsions and referrals to the justice system. Neither explained why that would be an undesirable outcome.

Rep. Kathryn Webb, D-Shelburne, asked why the SRO present at the Parkland shooting didn’t engage the shooter.

“It’s all good in training when you go through the practices and nobody is shooting back, but on game-day that cop has got to make an individual decision to evaluate the situation and ‘go do what I need to do as a human being,’” Evans said.

Evans reiterated his view that prevention is a smart strategy and focus for school security.

“Nothing keeps a dedicated, committed person that’s off the rails from doing those types of things,” he said. “No matter if we fortify our schools or not. If folks want to do it, instead of going into the schools they are going to do it on the playground or they are going to do it in the parking lot.

“That’s why when I talk about prevention, let’s spend as much time talking about how we prevent these things and making sure that the climates are good in our schools and our kids have a connection. That no kid feels like they don’t have somebody they can trust, somebody they can go to and share information.”

Michael Bielawski is a reporter for True North Reports. Send him news tips at bielawski82@yahoo.com and follow him on Twitter @TrueNorthMikeB.

Image courtesy of Michael Bielawski/TNR
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13 thoughts on “House lawmakers show little interest in armed protection of school children

  1. The reason more kids will get suspended is because they getting away with crap with the schools that don’t have SRO’s. And to think representative Sharp was a teacher. Do we need any more evidence that our education system is letting our kids down.

  2. I’ve no doubt from a well meaning but naive parent’s perspective this is about protecting their children in school but from the perspective of those you have elected and who really control how well your child will be protected should the unspeakable happen, well not so much.

    Your best protection is home school your kids.
    Next best is provide armed protection by people who have been tested under fire and are trained to fight back……..combat vets come to mind and most towns have them.

    As much as I respect and support our local LEOs, they can not stop an event from happening unless they’re there before it starts. Think about it.

    Either get your children out of the public school system or be prepared to put protection (you can trust) into said school system. There is no inbetween.

  3. We need to make our children feel safe? What we need to do is wake up and be aware of the dangers around all of us. They will never get it nor will they do anything about it that will work.

  4. So rather than be concerned about all kids school safety, Rep. Sharp, head of this chair committee is worried about minorities being expelled, and claims to have proof that more kids get expelled from schools that have SRO’s, that’s exactly what we need DOPEY, more eyes and ears on the kids, more disciplin for those who misbehave (regardless of color), any prudent person whould think the exact oposite, hey dope, YOU”RE FIRED!

    Rep. David Sharpe, D-Bristol, chair of the committee, suggested SROs could have a negative impact on school climate.
    “The incidence of minorities being suspended and expelled from school are far greater in schools that had SROs,” Sharpe said.
    A similar claim was made Tuesday in the Senate Judiciary Committee, when Deputy Education Secretary Amy Fowler told senators that SROs might result in increased suspensions, expulsions and referrals to the justice system. Neither explained why that would be an undesirable outcome.

    • Sharpe probably got his orders from the big public education monopoly, after all he’s just an easily controlled puppet for the teachers union. It’s unfortunate the folks in his district re-elect this guy and the rest of us suffer.

  5. They all talk a good game , but they have NO real solutions as they will not state that we have
    a problem with mental Illness or just a plain criminal mind . They feel hindering ” law abiding ”
    citizens is the answer ……… Idiots !!

    There only solution is to ” disarm ” law abiding Citizens that’s the only agenda from the left

    The Governor can have all the meetings and throw all the money he wants , as sad as it is
    we will still have School Safety Concerns ……..Evil is Evil and Crazy is Crazy !!

    Now if you ask any of the ” Liberal ” thinking Hierarchy within the school systems about
    armed guards they go into a frenzy …… Why , it not in the agenda and the only statement
    they have is it will traumatize the children…….. pure BS .

  6. I do believe that the legislators have armed protection don’t they? What’s good for the goose…

  7. These legislators have conned their constituents into believing that these feel good measures passed by the Senate will make kids safer, if they were interested in kids safety they would enact the security measures like we do at airports, courts, etc. This leads me to believe that there is a different agenda than keeping our precious kids safe and that is to repeal the 2nd Amendment. The real solutions block their agenda and that is why we keep hearing “gun control”, and magazine limits, etc. instead of real solutions. Shame on all of you who vote to take away the rights of the people and ignore our precious children! I will vote next year and you may be very surprised how informed That the good people of Vermont are and how angry the good guys are!

  8. These legislators have conned their constituents into believing that these feel good measures passed by the Senate will make kids safer, if they were interested in kids safety they would enact the security measures like we do at airports, courts, etc. This leads me to believe that there is a different agenda than keeping our precious kids safe and that is to repeal the 2nd Amendment. The real solutions block their agenda and that is why we keep hearing “gun control”, and magazine limits, etc. instead of real solutions. Shame on all of you who vote to take away the rights of the people and ignore our precious children! I will vote next year and you may be very surprised how informed That the good people of Vermont are and how angry the good guys are!

  9. No they are not interested in children’s safety,they are in want to disarm Vermont’s population.

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