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Armed Guard in Schools is a Bad Idea [Letter]

Hellertown resident Dennis Scholl says he opposes a Saucon Valley School District proposal to spend more than $125,000 on hiring an armed officer as a school security measure.

To the Editor,

I read today ("Saucon Valley to Consider Placing Armed Officer on Campus," The Morning Call, Feb. 13, 2013) that Saucon Valley School District is contemplating the addition of an armed guard at its Polk Valley Road campus. The officer would cost the district $126,000, according to school board member, Ralph Puerta. An additional $3,100 would be required to install a new lock system and surveillance cameras at school entrances. Another $17,000 would be required to install bollards at entrances, to prevent forcible vehicular entry into the schools. These security measures will be considered as the board weighs the 2013-2014 budget. Total expenditure on the three security items is $146,100.

I'd like to go on public record (and I will do so at a school board meeting as well) as being opposed to the presence of an armed guard, not to mention the phenomenal cost in taxpayers' money of $126,000 to hire and maintain one.

I fully understand the reasoning behind the idea, but hope the district can come up with an alternative that a) keeps guns out of the school, no matter who is holstering them, and b) cuts the expenditures back about $100,000. As a taxpayer in the district, I will request to see all the line items that go into the unbelievable hiring cost of one armed guard.

Dennis Scholl

Hellertown

Vida Frankenfield February 19, 2013 at 03:51 PM
I also agree with Allison about the peep window. How many office people really look at who they are letting in that door. Besides what I have suggested above, I would vote on the school placing bulletproof glass in all windows and doors to the school and get rid of the bell that allows anyone to enter the building.I have a child that attends school and eats in that cafeteria and those doors should be closed during lunch, too many people can see through the front entrance and watch all of the children in the cafeteria. Not a smart thing! The school needs to do what they can to protect our kids, a whole alot more!!! Money is spent on everything else, and almost all of the activities at the school cost us money, US! Now we need their help.
Mary Anne Looby February 19, 2013 at 03:53 PM
Maybe instead of the school board deciding this, there should be a committee of parents from each grade. 24 people will bring different ideas, but they will all have the same goal. Child safety.
Josh Popichak (Editor) February 19, 2013 at 04:05 PM
Speaking from personal experience as an outsider who sometimes visits the schools, I will say that I have never been allowed to breeze past the 'peep window,' nor have I seen others do that. Although I think most of the office staff know who I am (at least by sight), I still need to identify myself, sign the log and take a hall pass. I have always found the employees who check in visitors to be cordial, efficient and thorough. If there are staff who aren't looking at people as they're walking in, I find that surprising.
Mary Anne Looby February 19, 2013 at 04:20 PM
I too resent your comment about moving. My family has lived here for 22 years. We did not move here for the schools, they weren't that good back then. We used the schools for two years at middle school level, till we could transition into semi private high school. For 20 years we have watched our hard earned money go to support our neighbors kids. Now, because of high taxes, once my husband retires, we will probably move from the home we built and where we raised our kids. Somehow that does not seem fair. I believe that once you reach retirement age your obligation to support the local schools should lessen. I would be thrilled to see my school taxes cut in half.
Deanna Johnson February 19, 2013 at 04:40 PM
I have already said my Move comment was Harsh. I was trying to make a point that we have choices . And don't we all wish we could pick where are taxes go. I know my money has went to support many things I wasn't thrilled to support.
Mary Anne Looby February 19, 2013 at 04:53 PM
@D Johnson, I did not realize rebutal comments were limited to one! Yes, I know you already said that your comment was harsh, I was simply giving my opinion regarding it. I am sure you meant to say where you taxes have gone, as oposed to have went. BTW, did you go to SV?
Deanna Johnson February 19, 2013 at 05:11 PM
No I did not go to Saucon Valley. I went to a private school. I did not ever mean to suggest that a person that works hard should be forced out of their home from school taxes. I'm am sorry to hear that would ever be the case.
Dennis Scholl February 19, 2013 at 06:17 PM
My kids graduated from tyhe district in 2003 and 2007, but the campus was the same. All the entrances that are there now, were there when my kids went to school. I was an environmental ed consultant for the district for nine years (K-5), so I'm very familiar with the layout.
Beguine February 19, 2013 at 06:52 PM
Armed guards are in a prison. I do not want my child attending a school where he is treated like a prisoner. We are new to this district, and the reason we chose Saucon Valley was because of the tolerance, integrity, and emphasis on educating the whole student, and the common sense of a community that supports families, instead of breeding fear. I oppose armed guards. We are NOT a fearful people. If adults are licensed to carry, I support these individuals carrying weapons in and around the school, but I do NOT support armed guards.
Beguine February 19, 2013 at 06:57 PM
Agree. Oklahoma Bombings were not done by terrorists or guns, but a truck of manure. Trying to legislate evil will not stop evil. I do not want my child to be a prisoner in his building. What kind of message do we send about our children, school and community? We are NOT a fearful nation.
Beguine February 19, 2013 at 06:58 PM
Exactly.
Andrew Wilt February 19, 2013 at 07:54 PM
All this debate over an armed guard at the school! We likely all agree on one thing, anyone who would go on a shooting rampage anywhere has a mental problem. I think it's safe to say that aside from Joel Katz who believes the deaths of innocents can be stopped by completely disarming the population, the rest of us who are commenting here are pretty normal. Not one of us, even including Joel, can possibly know what's going on in the mind of one of these killers. I think we can also agree that if one of them is intent on killing for killing's sake or any other bizarre reason, that no amount of preventative measures can stop the carnage. Washington, DC likely has the most restricted and heavily guarded airspace on the planet. Yet, on September 11, 2001 a commercial airliner was flown into the Pentagon nearly two hours after other planes were hijacked and over 4,000 flights were grounded. The point being, if evil persons want to kill others, it's going to happen. You simply can't protect against everything. (Continued.)
Andrew Wilt February 19, 2013 at 07:54 PM
But lets think about it anyway. Should armed guards be at every bus stop in the morning and afternoon? What about guards on the buses themselves? There are nearly as many children on each bus as were killed in Newtown. Should we be worried about that? How about psychological testing for all of the bus drivers? What about the athletic fields? What if someone hijacks an SUV and drives onto the fields and mows down the girls playing field hockey? Maybe we should have fences like on Jurassic Park so this can't happen. Should armed guards be patrolling outside the school too? What about if the field hockey team is at an away game? What if that school has lax security? Should armed guards follow all the sports teams around? OMG, what about the band? Speaking of the band, should we start checking their instrument cases if they’ve taken their instruments home to practice? God only knows what you can fit into a trombone case. If one of them has had problems with their scales and becomes unhinged as a result, then what? What about when other bands come to play at football games here, should we check their instrument cases too? I could go on for hours. Where does it end? I’m not saying we shouldn’t be concerned about school safety, but an armed guard? Is what we have now not sufficient?
Cindy Cicero February 19, 2013 at 08:32 PM
Your 100% right Mean Mom ;)
Dennis Scholl February 19, 2013 at 11:01 PM
Good comments, Andrew. I think this thread has been very positive in the sense that we're reading various opinions without anyone being slanderous. (OK, we've come close a couple of times but people have shown restraint.) I'm sure some school board members have been monitoring the comments, and they should be. This is the type of discussion that wouldn't be allowed at a school board meeting because it would take up too much time. So, as a forum for statements pro and con, this has been good. I understand it's a lightning rod; anything regarding children is bound to be emotional. My boys graduated after Columbine and a couple of other senseless slaughters, but the nation didn't galvanize then as it is now. Sandy Hook was the straw that broke the camel's back, and this thread is simply a microcosm of what we're seeing around the country. I don't know where this is going to end, but everyone is entitled to an opinion, as we're seeing. No opinion is wrong. But if we can take the time to type comments here, we certainly can find time to attend school board meetings that deal with this topic and others that effect the safety of our children. (Continued in next submission)
Dennis Scholl February 19, 2013 at 11:02 PM
(from previous submission) I've been around long enough to see how society has changed, and I'm not particularly fond of our current direction in regard to police presence in schools. The problem doesn't start when shots ring out in school hallways. The problem begins much earlier in homes where children are neglected, abused, exposed to hate, suffer through divorces . . . you name it. Left untreated and uncounseled, the children who suffer those consequences stand a good chance of exhibiting the same traits later in life or turning to substance addiction as a cure. So, you can hire armed guards to deal with the most extreme cases and take a chance it works, or you can address the issues that cause the problems at an early age. I am not for hiring one or more armed guards, but I would support hiring qualified professionals whose only job at a school would be to work with children who are exhibiting instability at an early age. I repeat: It would be their ONLY job, and not a .5 job, but full-time. Rest assured, there are far more emotional ly unstable children in our schools than you realize.
Vida Frankenfield February 20, 2013 at 04:21 PM
The school already has professional people called counsellors to help the emotional child at school, this is their only job at the school from opening until closing. As I mentioned before, scanners installed at all entrance doors to the entire school, with unarmed, security guards at the doors, to arrest anyone with a weapon like all of the courts do. The scanner would check everyone who enters the school, including the students who would have their bookbags scanned as they enter the doors, it might be time consuming for the school, but I believe it could be worked out, and parents, teachers, and staff would have less stress knowing that the schools are safe.And I do not believe this would frighten the kids or make them feel like they were in a prison, my guess is they will feel safe knowing their school will take into custody anyone caught with a weapon.
Andrew Wilt February 20, 2013 at 04:42 PM
Vida Frankenfield - Do you have any idea what those scanners cost? You don't think even unarmed guards in addition to those scanners would be frightening to children?
Vida Frankenfield February 20, 2013 at 06:56 PM
Children are taught home safety by their parents, who would also talk to them about the need for such action to be taken for their safety while they are in school all day. I am one of those parents who discusses such issues with my child, knowing exactly what is being done for their safety, I believe, makes them feel safer, which is the way they should feel, and from experience, my child has a better understanding of the school's safety issues.All it takes is the right communication between parent and child.As far as scanners being expensive, well, I would rather be safe, then sorry. This should be an expense for the school board, we already pay high taxes for Saucon Valley. Safety and education should come hand in hand, with one being just as important as the other, now it is up to the school district to do something good for the sake of their students, I do not see why they could not include this change into their budget. Maybe, if enough parents complain it will happen. If you can come up with something better, then do so.
Dennis Scholl February 20, 2013 at 07:31 PM
Vida, I assure you the school district does not have an adequate number of counselors to handle the number of case loads. if you think they do, then you do not have much experience with elementary/middle school/high school counseling situations, which tend to have an academic/emotional overlap. Please do some investigation into the average number of case loads per counselor in any public school system and you'll soon see what I mean. you need people who pay attention to emotional issues only, not people who do the normal overlap work. By the way, do scanners stop bullets? And, I applaud you for communicating with your children, but I assure you there are many parents who don't. You say "All it takes is the right communication between parent and child." Really? I think you're simplifying and isolating the situation.
Vida Frankenfield February 20, 2013 at 07:57 PM
Apparently Dennis, you did not read all of my suggestions. Please do so when you have time. How do you know so much about the counselling system at Saucon? Why dont you inform everyone on patch, so we can better understand what is going on in the counselling department. Also, offer some suggestions to the problem, we can use all the help we can get to come up with a proposal for the school.I have not heard you mention anything so far. Putting everyone down is not an answer until you have something to add. I'm sure that alot of those parents also take their kids to outside counselling beside counselling in school, at least that is what I would do, and if the child has problems that bad, there are schools for them to help them with those problems.
Dennis Scholl February 20, 2013 at 10:47 PM
Vida, you take things pretty personally. No one put you down, nor did I put anyone else down through this entire thread. And if you bother to look through the thread, I spent some time outlining my thoughts on where problems lie; I did not profess to know solutions to the solution outside of stating several times that I don't think an armed guard or guards is a solution. If I knew solutions to this particular problem, I could become one of the most sought-after consultants in America. Do you have solutions? I've seen lots of ideas that may have merit, but I have seen no solutions. None. Zippo. My experience with the counseling system at Saucon and other schools comes from having personal and professional contact with counselors. We could discuss counseling until the cows come home, but I don't think I'd sway your opinion. You seem pretty set on your notion that emotional issues can be taken care of either at home or through off-campus professionals. Not everyone has the wherewithal to approach their own children on sensitive issues and not everyone has the wherewithal to afford an outside counselor. Schools can offer services, but as I noted, school counselors deal with a myriad of student issues, not just emotional/social support.
Dennis Scholl February 20, 2013 at 10:50 PM
continued from above - Although I'm not a fan of Saucon's high taxes (I pay them), I would support - as I've stated previously - staff counselors whose sole responsibility is emotional/social support. Now, I don't know where this thread will end, but I'd rather not trade barbs with you or anyone else. If you can't handle me saying that I think you've simplified and isolated a counseling issue, then perhaps you shouldn't be taking part in discussions like this, because something is bound to ruffle your feathers again.
Dennis Scholl February 20, 2013 at 10:52 PM
By the way, I made a mistake up above in the 5:47 post. The last word of the third line should be problem, not solutions. This has been fun; let's not spiral downward.
Mary Anne Looby February 20, 2013 at 11:16 PM
@Dennis Scholl, I think you might be onto something re conselors who are hired to strickly deal with kids with emotional issues. I agree that not everyone can afford private counseling, and frankly, have been in counseling, if you are smart enough you can tell them what they want to hear. A counselor in the school could monitor kids on a daily basis. They can see them more than most parents do and certainly more than a private counselor. I have driven around Hellertown and gone into stores and have seen first hand, kids that probably are in need of counseling. Often times we hear parents say "it's just a fad" or all the kids are dressing like that", but the reality is, when kids start dressing in odd manner it signals something. Maybe they don't feel like they fit in, or maybe they are emulating something they have seen. There are tell tale signs. Certain things that kids gravitate towards, that can take them down the wrong path. Couselors, dedicated to watching and being supported by the rest of the school staff, is a good idea. One that really should be considered. You don't have to put the whole school under police protection, if you can identify and help a kid that might go off the rails. Of course this would only apply to the kids at these schools, some from the outside could always cause the problem.
Vida Frankenfield February 21, 2013 at 04:59 PM
I wish I knew what to do, but it will take team effort for this kind of a problem to be resolved. If there are that many kids in school that need counselling then that is a problem in itself. Yes, I agree kids should be monitored but how do we know that that is what is being done. Counselling is a private issue. Do we really know how many kids are getting seen and what for? The answer is no! The only way to eliminate crime within the school, is by scanners that identify what they carry on their person and in their bookbags. This would include the staff as well as anyone else coming into the building.As far as the cooperation from the remainder of the school staff, I sincerely believe they will say, they have their own jobs to do, that does not include counselling the kids, and they do not have the qualifications to care for the kids in that manner, that is why they have counsellors. They need to hire more counsellors if the problem is that bad.What do you think? I cannot think of a better way to eliminate weapons in school. Another suggestion might be lockers getting checked on a regular basis. And Dennis, my feathers are not ruffled as you say, I am giving suggestions like everyone else. Sorry, if I offended you.Please do not make accusations anymore. That sort of thing will ruffle anyone's feathers.
Dennis Scholl February 21, 2013 at 07:29 PM
Peace
Vida Frankenfield February 22, 2013 at 03:16 PM
Peace to you too, Dennis and have a good day!
farmrdave March 05, 2013 at 01:23 AM
It is definitely a great expense. Much of this issue may be in how much money the school district can afford to spend? Anyone can see that if a armed guard were in the right place at the right time they may save many children's lives. Another consideration is that knowing there is a armed guard on campus may deter a would-be mass killer. In many cases crimes are prevented because of the foreknowledge of armed persons on the premises. Maybe it is a matter of what is best to spend the money on? Of course sports are a great advantage, but what about limiting games "away", would that help to pay for a armed guard? I am sure that on paper bollards at entrances are a good idea. Have there been any deaths due to lack of bollards?
Vida Frankenfield March 05, 2013 at 03:10 PM
Everyone's opinions on this subject will not help if more is not done for the school to realize just how serious the problem is, and there needs to be a compromise. The way I see it, if we all wait to bring this up to the school district, it might be, God forbid too late. As someone said in the above comments, some of the district's money is going to unnecessary things, that could wait longer. We the parents of these children, need the questions answered NOW! as to what the school will do to keep our kids safe. Whether we like it or not, some police protection is necessary.

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