The South Huntington school board voted unanimously Wednesday night to hire armed security officers to patrol outside all of its school buildings.
The 6-0 vote–one trustee was absent–will bring experienced current or retired law enforcement officers to school grounds provided by the Melville firm Upfront Security Associates.
Superintendent Dr. Vito D’Elia said the firm would begin working when the contract is signed, which Board President Nick Ciappetta said he would do this week. The cost for the first year is estimated at about $750,000.
A handful of residents spoke up, asking questions about how the decision was made, and in some cases, expressing doubts that having guns on school grounds would make students and teachers safer. Speakers brought up prior school attacks around the country where armed security or police failed to stop shooters until several students or teachers had been murdered.
The board and D’Elia have said that the district would have more seasoned and better trained officers protecting the schools who would respond to emergencies. They also said that the presence of armed officers would work as a deterrent.
The security officers, who will carry concealed weapons, would remain outside and not enter schools, the board said, except for emergencies. They will also work on some events outside the normal school schedule, but Ciappetta declined to identify what those events would be. They will also protect the district office.
Board members said having officers on the grounds was one piece of a greater security plan that includes vestibules designed to block anyone trying to access school buildings with authority, better security cameras, and the availability of mental health services for students needing care. Their presence is intended to improve response times in an emergency.
“While we understand the gravity and importance of this decision, please know that this was not made lightly and our main goal as a district and Board of Education is to ensure the safety and security of all.” d’Elia said.
“Given the recent events that have plagued our nation with regards to gun violence in schools, we felt this added measure was a necessary step.”
After the board’s vote, four representatives of Upfront Security Associates, including president Philip C. Brady, stood up and identified themselves and gave brief descriptions of their law enforcement experience.
Ciappetta, asked about security plans in other school systems, said that other boards are routinely upgrading their security plans, and that he believes others will follow South Huntingon’s decision.