In wake of Parkland shooting, Suffolk schools debate hiring armed guards

By Mike Adams and Jonathan Pulla

At least three school districts across Suffolk County are considering hiring armed guards after
the Miller Place School District announced it would bring on four ex-NYPD officers to improve

Administrators in the Mount Sinai School District are entertaining hiring armed guards after the
community voiced support for the move, while the Rocky Point and Kings Park school districts
are also debating similar proposals. Opinions on armed officials in each district remain split.

“There’s definitely some different opinions in the community,” Mount Sinai Civic Association
Vice President Brad Arrington said at the association’s meeting Monday night. “A lot of people
feel ‘well, these are our kids, and we have to do everything to protect them,’ there’s also some
people who feel ‘it’s a school and not an army compound’.”

Mount Sinai parents have also voiced concerns about armed guards not being able to stop a
shooting after reports emerged that Majory Stoneman Douglas High School had a sheriff’s
deputy on site.

I’m not convinced that armed security is the answer,” Monica Stone, who has a child in Mount
Sinai Elementary School, said. “I’m sure the kids at Parkland felt safe and they got armed

Officials from the nearby Rocky Point School District are set to meet with a consulting firm on
Wednesday to discuss the legality of arming security guard or teachers. District educators are
split on the topic.

“If teachers are going to be properly trained or trained professionals are brought in, then I don’t
see why we shouldn’t try to protect our kids,” Rocky Point Middle School math teacher Frank
Centrone said. “I think your chance of survival [with a gun] is a lot better than being unarmed.”

Other teachers who oppose bringing guns into schools worry about where to draw the line with
the use of potentially deadly force.

“My fear with having guns in schools, even with trained police officers, is a concern in terms of
what are the procedures in place for them to determine when to use a weapon,” Andrew Cooper, a special education teacher in the Rocky Point School District, said. “Are these weapons being
brought into the school only for a case where there’s an active shooter or are they now enforcing
the law within the school?”

While the Kings Park Central School District will almost certainly not arm teachers,
superintendent Timothy Eagen said, the district is currently weighing the community’s concerns
against the threat of potential litigations.

A lapse in judgement or excessive use of force on the part of an armed guard could lead to
catastrophic consequences for the district that employs them, Eagen said.

“There’s the question over what constitutes reasonable force in the case of an armed security
guard,” Eagen said. “Suits in these situations are usually millions of dollars…a lawsuit could
potentially wipe out a school district.”

The presence of armed security could also have potentially damaging effects on student
psychology, Winthrop University Counselor Education professor Allison Paolini said.

“There’s a very fine line,” Paolini, who graduated from Hofstra University and served as a
counselor in Tampa, said. “It might make some students feel safer to have security guards in the
schools, but others might find it gives them a lot of anxiety.”

While students and parents alike are advocating for increased mental health resources at schools
to help prevent shootings, school counselors cannot be effective alone, Paolini said.

“It’s not a one-man show,” Paolini said. “A counselor’s role is instrumental in preventing these
tragedies, but under ASCA guidelines a counselor’s workload can be up to 450 students, and
counselors can’t diagnose mental illnesses. Without additional help, without outside referrals,
kids will fall through the cracks.”