PBL open to idea of armed guards at nation’s schools

PAXTON — Paxton-Buckley-Loda school district officials are not necessarily opposed to armed guards being stationed at all schools nationwide, as suggested by the National Rifle Association following the recent shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn.

But there are many questions — including who would pay for it — that would need to be answered first.

“If the federal government is willing to help us out, PBL would be willing to look at it,” Superintendent Cliff McClure said.

The Dec. 14 shooting, which led to the death of 26 children, prompted the NRA’s executive vice president, Wayne LaPierre, to call last week for all schools to have an armed-guard system similar to those at football stadiums and government buildings.

McClure said he never thought about the idea of having armed guards at schools, but he can understand the reasoning for wanting such a measure, especially after the tragedy in Connecticut.

“Schools in general are facing increased measures to increase safety,” McClure said. “You can’t put a dollar amount on the safety of the kids, but the state of Illinois is also facing a debt crisis, so we don’t know where money (for armed guards) would come from. Would it increase safety? Of course.”

McClure said the PBL school board has discussed hiring a police resource officer for the district’s four schools, but the officer would have more responsibility than an armed guard.

“In addition to safety and security measures, the person would also have to be involved on the educational proponent and build relationships with the kids,” McClure said. “He  would also teach the kids the harmful effects of drugs and stuff like that, as well.”

While McClure said the safety of PBL’s students is the district’s No. 1 priority and he would not put a price on that, he also said he was not sure where the money for armed guards or resource officers for all four schools would come from.

For now, McClure said such talks of armed guards and officers at the school are merely at their preemptive stages.

“The board is going to be having many discussions in the months to come,” McClure said. “We need to worry about how we need to respond locally and what we want to do locally. We have safety plans in place, but we will look at possible improvements as reviewed with law enforcers. Plus, we don’t know how the people in the community are going to feel about it.

“It’s about what’s best for our kids. If that means armed personnel, then maybe that’s what it leads to. We would need to look at that person’s role and train him with different rules for schools.”

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