Idaho District Aims to Add More Armed Guards

Idaho District Aims to Add More Armed Guards

The Lakeland School District looks to hire more armed guards to their schools after their successful first year with a guard placed at Athol Elementary School.

The Lakeland School District looks to hire more armed guards to their schools after their successful first year with a guard placed at Athol Elementary School.

According to Lakeland Joint SD Assistant Superintendent Lisa Sexton, students, staff and parents feel safer thanks to the elementary school’s armed guard, whose name is Mike.

“Parents have told us they just feel better about leaving their kids at school. It makes them feel better, which I guess is our primary goal,” Sexton said.

The district added an armed guard in November 2018. Sexton said the district chose to add armed security following parent calls for increased school safety. The parent requests for more safety and security started after the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in 2012 but really increased after the Parkland High School in 2018, Sexton said.

“After Sandy Hook, there was definitely kind of an increased awareness for parents that no school is safe in their minds. It was the first time that an elementary school had been a target and I think it rattled them a little bit,” Sexton said. “Then in February after Parkland happened, there was a huge outcry from our patrons basically telling us ‘enough is enough’ and ‘we want more.’”

Athol Elementary became the first school in Idaho with an armed guard. The district chose Athol Elementary as the first campus at which to place an armed guard because it’s the most remote school in the district, resulting in long emergency response times.

Sexton said the armed guard at Athol Elementary has only needed to use his training to deescalate situations with angry parents “maybe a couple times”, which can happen when parents become frustrated with decisions made by the school.

“He’s participated in kind of working with the staff when parents get escalated because they’re upset. Sometimes as a school agency we have to make a report to Child Protective Services and parents get angry,” Sexton said. “He has really strong de-escalation skills and he’s able to talk to parents and kind of bring their level of emotion down so there can be a conversation.”

The armed guard currently spends most of his time building relationships with students during recess and other down time to help them feel safer at school.

Sexton estimated that these security positions cost the school about $70,000 each, including salary, equipment, training and benefits. Lakeland School District hopes to add two more in the next two years; one placed at Lakeland High School this fall and one to serve both rural schools in the district beginning fall 2020.

Digital Edition

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    September/October 2019

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