Greenport schools mull arming security guards

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12/31/2012 1:45 PM |

KATHARINE SCHROEDER PHOTO | Greenport school board member Michael Mazzaferro said Dec. 19 he believes every school should have armed security.

A Greenport school board member wants the district to hire armed security to avoid tragedies like the Dec. 14 elementary school shooting in Connecticut where 27 people were killed — including 20 children and the gunman.

During the Greenport Board of Education’s Dec. 19 monthly meeting, board member Michael Mazzaferro said he has believed armed security is needed in schools since the 1999 Columbine High School shooting in Littleton, Colo., which left 15 people dead, including 12 students, a teacher and both gunmen, who committed suicide following the nearly 22-minute rampage.

“I think every school should have armed security,” Mr. Mazzaferro said. “Most shootings happen in gun-free zones because the shooter knows they will be successful and no one is going to stop them.”

Currently, the Mattituck-Cutchogue School District is the only district in Southold Town that has security, with one unarmed guard. Southold Town police officials said school districts can hire certified-trained armed security.

Although other Greenport board members didn’t express whether or not they were in favor of hiring armed security, they agreed with member Tina Volinski’s suggestion to continue its discussions about improving student safety.

“That’s something we’ll have to figure out now that it’s budget time and see what we can afford,” she said.

The armed-security discussion came five days after the tragedy in Newtown, Conn., in which 20-year-old Adam Lanza blasted his way into Sandy Hook Elementary School with a .223-caliber rifle. That school is located 60 miles northeast of New York City. According to media reports, the shooter’s mother, Nancy Lanza, had worked at the school and was reportedly the 28th victim, found shot to death in her home.

The event is the nation’s second-deadliest school shooting, after the 2007 massacre at Virginia Tech in Blacksburg, Va., in which a gunman killed 32 people and then himself.

Following the National Rifle Association announcement on Dec. 21 that it wants Congress to fund armed officers in every American school, some school leaders have called for more gun control.

State education commissioner John King described NRA’s comments as “nothing but a distraction.”

“The epidemic of gun violence — particularly against young people — all across the United States calls out for common sense gun control and a more thoughtful response to the mental health needs of our citizens,” Mr. King said in a statement.

According to the Associated Press, some anti-gun advocates have said adding armed security isn’t the answer since an armed sheriff’s deputy assigned to Columbine High School the day of the massacre and Virginia Tech’s police force were unable to stop the violence.

Southold Police Chief Martin Flatley has said his department is meeting with school officials and Suffolk County law enforcement to review lockdown, safety and emergency procedures. Greenport Superintendent Michael Comanda said the district’s SAVE committee, formed under the guidelines of the federal Safe Schools Against Violence in Education program, will hold a meeting on Wednesday to discuss improving safety measures. The meeting is closed to the public, he said.

jennifer@timesreview.com