CHICAGO — A suburban Illinois school district says it plans to hire retired police officers as armed office workers, granting them permission to carry weapons on school campuses so they might take action in the event of a school shooting.
School officials, parents and students have all been searching for a response to the ongoing horror of deadly mass shootings in our nation’s schools. Some parents say more guns are not the answer, but the superintendent of the Palatine School District says his idea is about proactive protection.
“I want to do everything possible to make sure the children and staff members are safe in buildings,” Palatine School District Superintendent Scott Thompson told WGN.
It has been 20 years since Columbine, and the number of school shootings has only grown, from Santa Fe to Parkland and so many others. All with no apparent solution to the problem, and almost no action from Washington. Now the schools themselves are thinking of how they can increase security. Thompson oversees nearly 13,000 students, and says the idea is to be proactive about student safety.
“When something happens in school, you dial 911, who shows up? Police officers. Why not have police officers right there in the building as soon as something happens, so there wouldn’t be lag time,” Thompson said.
The retired officers would have their weapons but would not be working as security guards. Instead, they would take on clerical and support roles in the school offices, doing things like answering phones, helping file paperwork and collecting lunch money. They’d be paid $20 an hour and receive medical and dental benefits.
“It’s not something new, it’s just in a little bit different form,” Thompson said.
But in Palatine there's opposition to anyone bringing guns inside of a school building.
“I think it’s absolutely ridiculous. Personally, I don’t know why you would ever want anyone with a loaded gun in a school around children,” Katie Ohlrich said.
One Palatine grandmother says she supports the district’s approach.
“I feel more protection for our children and my grandchildren, and the security, would be more favorable to each one of us,” Josephine Abano said.
After the attack at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School left 17 people dead in February, President Trump floated the idea of arming teachers.
“Once you do this, you will have a situation where all of a sudden this horrible plague will stop,” Trump said.
But the Palatine superintendent says his plan is different because the retired officers would have experience and training, and not be in classrooms.
“They’ve been trained to keep their antennae up to make sure that anything happening in a school, they’re aware of,” Thompson said.
The Educational Support Workers Union at District 15 still needs to review the plan before it’s approved.