The Board of Education for the Public Schools of Robeson County will eventually be forced into a conversation that we doubt any of its members are anxious to have.
The Republican-led General Assembly has passed legislation allowing armed volunteers to stand guard at our public schools. The Robesonian interviewed several school board members for a story that was published on Sunday, and the ones who answered our questions were all over the place with their thoughts — and, we believe, a bit reluctant to ponder the issue.
Superintendent Johnny Hunt likewise seemed willing to kick this grenade down the road.
“Safety is of the utmost importance in our schools,” Hunt said. “We need more resource officers. I understand the General Assembly has appropriated some money for added safety, but we haven’t officially heard how much money we will receive. The issue of unarmed officers is still under discussion and is still up in the air. It is too early to discuss that issue for our schools.”
The provision allowing armed volunteers with current firearms training into schools as safety officers was included in the $20.6 billion budget that was signed by the governor on Friday. There are resource officers in county schools now who do carry weapons, but the legislation would allow for unpaid volunteers.
There are a lot of questions that will need answering before armed volunteers are allowed in schools, including who will they be, what kind of training will be required and where will funding come from. But the most important question is whether or not armed volunteers in schools will actually make our students and educators safer.
The legislation is an obvious response to the slaughter of 26 people at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., in December. Last month, six people were killed and four injured in a shooting at Santa Monica College in California. Unfortunately, such tragedies have become an American reality.
So the threat is real — and standing idly awaiting the inevitable next slaughter is not satisfying.
The perpetrators of these crimes, however, are typically on suicide missions, so we aren’t sure the they would be deterred by an armed officer. Still, a hard argument to counter is that a gunman could be cut down before he ran out of ammunition, and that lives would be saved.
Guns are a big patch of Robeson County’s quilt, and we know there will be plenty of pressure on school board members to place armed guards in our local schools. Should that happen, we hope we never find out if the decision was a good or bad one.