Andrew Walsh - Nights on KIRO Radio
Andrew Walsh
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Officer Rick Moore, of the Oakland School District Police, patrols Oakland Technical High School in Oakland, Calif. A mother's proposal to pay for a security guard at her daughter's school is sparking strong reactions on both sides of the debate. (AP image)

Mom paying for school security officer sparks strong reactions

President Obama vowed Monday in his inauguration address to take care of America's returning soldiers and veterans. And just last week he promised to increase funding for school security. But KIRO Radio's Don O'Neill of the Ron and Don Show says it "pissed him off" to see all the pomp and circumstance, along with the money spent, on the ceremony and security, while schools are scrambling to hire armed guards across the country.

Don's ire was was sparked by the story of a Florida mom who just cut a $12,000 check to cover the cost of an armed deputy to patrol her daughter's elementary school. Laurie Lauria agreed to cover the $32/hour cost of the officer for Old Kings Elementary after the Flagler County School District, which currently has armed officers at high schools and some middle schools, told her they couldn't afford more officers.

After seeing hundreds of police officers and soldiers who volunteered to line Obama's inauguration route, Don wonders why they aren't staffing local schools instead.

"Why not have a volunteer force out there right now, instead of flying to Washington, that will show up at a local school and provide security to kids, kind of like after 9/11," Don says.

It might seem unrealistic to expect officers or vets to volunteer their time or be able to dependably staff the nation's schools. But Don says many he knows would do just that. And he says if we're going to pay someone, it should be them.

"Why not hire some of them? They have the training. If you can roll through the mountains of Afghanistan, you can stand down locally at a local elementary school as we go through this very critical time."

President Obama last week proposed a new $150 million "Comprehensive School Safety program" that would "help school districts hire staff and make other critical investments in school safety."

That plan includes the creation of 1,000 new "school resource officers," that would be specially trained police officers that would work in schools.

But it likely won't be enough to cover all the cash strapped schools that want them. And while Don is angry, KIRO Radio's Andrew Walsh and many others think it's a great idea if parents can afford to fund security themselves.

"At first thought it was a bad precedent if parents who can afford it just throw money at problem," Walsh said. "But my opinion changed. It could be more than a person who just fires a gun if needed, but a person who could be a role model, and somebody the children could get to know."

Flagler County School District Superintendent Janet Valentine says the district is working on a plan to increase security at all schools. "But in the meantime while that happens, I personally felt like that was a wonderful opportunity and there would be no reason for us to say no," Valentine told the Daytona Beach News-Journal.

Many parents agree. "If I had the money I'd hire four or five. To know there's someone there if someone comes in with a gun, they could try and stop them before they kill more children," grandmother Gwen Hadley told WKMG TV about the plan to protect her grandson's school.

"If she has the money and she thinks that's a good use of it. We have too many schools in this country that don't have enough money for this kind of demand that's been brought on since the Newtown massacre," said KIRO Radio news editor Karen Taylor on The Andrew Walsh Show.

But many others think it sets a dangerous precedent, both for creating a further disparity between schools that have deep-pocketed parents and those struggling to just meet basic needs, along with the notion of having armed officers adding to the fear.

"Singular horrible events like [the Sandy Hook shooting] make us all upset, but if we look at the data, it doesn't make sense that that's where we need to beef up security in a very expensive way -- not only financially but also at the cost of our children's feeling of security," Kenneth Dodge, director of the Center for Child and Family Policy at Duke University told The Huffington Post last month. "Isn't it more straightforward to just get rid of the guns?"

But Don argues in the wake of all the recent shootings, "something funky is going on out there with mostly young men right now," and increasing security around schools is critical to ease concerns and prevent more shootings from happening. And the inauguration was just salt in the wounds.

"It's upsetting to me to see the pomp, the circumstance, the money and then say 'We don't have the money to help kids'."

Josh Kerns, MyNorthwest.com
Josh Kerns is an award winning reporter/anchor and host of KIRO Radio's Seattle Sounds (Sunday afternoons 5-6p) and a digital content producer for MyNorthwest.com.
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