October 1, 2022

Letter to the Editor: Armed Security Guards in Lyme-Old Lyme Schools are Not the Solution to Gun Violence

To the Editor:

This past Wednesday, the Board of Education voted 7-2 to place armed guards at District 18 schools. Though many board members expressed reservations, including to NBC News, it passed.

I am submitting this letter as a child advocate and as a pediatric nurse practitioner withe certification and expertise in pediatric mental health. I am a parent and a community member. I have many friends and family in the teaching profession. I make my decisions based on data, not emotions. At the same time, it is impossible not to be emotional about children blown to unrecognizable bits. As a former pediatric critical care nurse, I have taken care of young gun violence victims, but have not been forced to bear witness to a massacre, as first responders have been.

I think after the tragic massacre in Uvalde, our immediate reaction is “do something, anything.” That something should not be armed guards at school. There is zero evidence that armed guards make schools safer, and plenty of evidence that they do NOT. The recent mass murderer in Buffalo was not deterred by an armed guard. This is anecdotal, but typical.

Placing armed guards in District 18 schools would be expensive and in no way is a solution to mass murders in school or elsewhere, and it would be a daily reminder to children that they are not safe. No one will be safe anywhere until gun laws are passed to ban assault weapons, enforce waiting periods and background checks.

Further, teenagers do not have developed frontal cortexes. This is the part of the brain responsible for judgement. They cannot control their impulses. They have no business owning lethal weapons.
Parents, teachers and school administrators who really want to protect children should relentlessly advocate for these changes.

Armed school guards are not even a bandaid, much less a solution.

My letter with this information as well as links to studies was submitted to the BOE before Wednesday’s meeting. It was not even mentioned in the discussion that night.

Sincerely,

Betsy Groth,
APRN (active); Faculty Yale School of Nursing (Retired); Member, CT Against Gun Violence,
Old Lyme.

Comments

  1. Steven Wilson says

    This is Steven Wilson, Chairman of the Region 18 Board of Ed. Due to the FOIA (Freefom Of Infirmation Act), I cannot discuss points made in this letter outside an official board meeting but I would like to clarify two points of order.

    1. Wednesday’s meeting was a Special Meeting and therefore, no email (or other correspondences) were mentioned in the meeting as they would have been during a Regular Board Meeting.
    2. There is no record of an email from Ms. Groth in my inbox so I’d ask that it be resent or that Ms. Groth comment to whom it was sent so we can ascertain what went wrong. Correspondence and in person comment are high priorities for this Board.

    • Betsy Groth says

      I prepared the email very early in the morning before the BOE meeting, before I left for work. That I was not aware of this until then is proof that it was rushed through and not well thought out.
      I sent it to a BOE member asking it to be shared. Receipt was acknowledged. Obviously it was not share.
      I have spoken to several parents who attended this meeting and feel strongly they were not heard.
      I work long hours as a Pediatric Nurse Practitioner , so was unable to attend. I would have definitely tried to re arrange my schedule if I had known.
      The “ poll” that was sent out to parents by the superintendent, as reported to me, certainly would not have passed any test of accuracy or precision.
      I repeat my offer to present data to any group requesting it.
      Betsy Groth

    • Charlotte Scot says

      I am very opposed to the BOE’s decision and I hope the Board will rescind it and schedule another meeting to answer the following questions:
      What research did you find that showed guns provide the best security for our young people? (Anyone who saw video reports of the tragedy in Uvalde learned that 19 armed police officers did not save children. My own research shows that arming security DOES NOT protect students.)
      What is the proposed cost for this venture?
      How will the board determine the type of weapon to be purchased?
      Will there be a procedure for getting bids on weapons?
      Will the guards be trained with these specific weapons?
      Will they be forced to re-qualify every six(?) months?
      How long will the number of officers be increased to 5? Is there a limit to the number of security personnel hired? How was that number derived at?
      What the police play additional roles?
      Has anyone polled students and teachers about their preferences for guns on campus?
      Have the FOIA questions been answered?

      This issue does not just affect our schools, it has an impact on the entire community.

  2. Danielle Kuczkowski says

    It is very upsetting that this measure was passed in such a rushed way. A letter from the Superintendent was sent out on June 3rd about this policy proposal and it was voted through on 6/15 despite overwhelming lack of public support at the BOE meeting and mixed support from the “thought exchange online “tool”. In fact, the main consensus from the thought exchange poll was that a more thorough investigation should be made into what measures should be taken in the face of gun violence. Instead, guns were voted into schools, inviting greater potential for injury and sending the very wrong message to our children that violence comes from the “other” and can only be stopped with guns.

  3. Olaf Bertram-Nothnagel says

    Hi!

    Point of order: Enacting this policy at a special meeting twelve days after the email announcing its proposal, with no opportunity for regular meeting or public correspondence seems insufficient.

    All but two of the many public comments Wednesday night opposed approval unless it was evidence-based and until we could hear from relevant experts and school counselors. These comments were not really responded to either, beyond denying the board was being “knee-jerk”. No research was cited in a meaningful way, other than a passing reference to unspecified study by a member, and saying they’d given it “a lot of consideration”. It may not be knee-jerk, but to the extent there was public notice or discussion of points raised it isn’t any better. It leaves little voice or choice beyond dis-enrollment to folks uncomfortable with guns in their kids’ school. I’m ashamed to even suggest how much that might make this steamrolling a happy pileup of dovetailing political goals for some!

    In the summary Wednesday of the supposedly supportive (but mostly fig leaf) online forum, no mention was made that among the top one hundred rated comments submitted online, there was not a single one in favor of approval.

    Before casting one of the two opposing votes at the meeting Shoemaker made the point: compare this process to the amount of deliberation and research the board did in determining how it would tackle Covid.

    A quick thought experiment: Imagine two schools: one with armed guards and active shooter drills, and one without guns in school, without students doing shooter drills? Which one would you think more likely to produce a shooter?

    (Not that all responsibility is with the schools, of course!

    Of course in the event of an accidental shooting, much responsibility will lie with those members of the Board who voted to enact this policy over the objections of parents.)

    I paste below my compressed for the three minute cutoff public comments that evening (misquoted in the CT Examiner):

    “Hi and thank you all for your work. I am a friend of the Second Amendment. I believe in the right to self defense, and that we must protect the innocent from harm. However, I think that arming our fine security staff would be a grave mistake, no matter their training.

    Our district response to the threat of a school shooting should not be based on our feelings, or on the protective psychology we all share, or on anecdotes, or our intuition. It must be based on the relevant science and on the psychology of potential perpetrators.

    The most comprehensive study I was able to find, which was also cited in the online survey, showed a dramatic increase in fatalities for school shootings where there was an armed guard. The deaths almost triple with an armed guard.

    Some suggest that arming guards will act as a deterrent. That might be true for a sensible person with a healthy will to live, but that is not who commits school shootings. Most often school shooters are deeply disturbed and suicidal students. The threat of death or bodily harm DOES NOT deter a suicidal attacker. It does the opposite.

    What do the armed guards accomplish then? They may lower response time, but if it comes to response time, really, it’s already too late. Prevention, not reaction, must be our watchword. There is very well documented and ample evidence that the presence of weapons increases aggression. The weapons effect it’s called.

    No matter how staff conceal their guns, every single student on campus above the age of six will doubtless know about them by the end of the first week. Many even well adjusted boys will begin gaming out cat and mouse schemes to outsmart and supplant such authority figures. We don’t want to go down this road!

    No matter our good intentions, and that this policy might be enacted for their protection, our students will understand that these guns and the bullets in them, could be for one of them. What does this do to how school feels to them? How do the disaffected respond?

    Our security staff will know very well that the first bullet in any premeditated school shooting will be in the back of their head. What does this do to their relations with students? Arming them not only puts an itchy target on their backs, and introduces guns into the school, it completely undermines the trust and camaraderie a truly healthy school environment depends on.

    How much arming guards traumatizes and incites kids, undermines a supportive school environment, and increases the chances of a shooting and its potential body count should be at the core of deciding whether to do so. Arming guards must be done with the informed and thoroughly thought through—not knee jerk—approval of the school community. I don’t believe that’s what is happening here, despite what I’m certain are the best of intentions in a climate of great urgency.

    The science speaks against arming guards. Developmental psychology and the psychology of violence also speaks against it. And there has not been sufficient community consideration of the consequences. I understand wanting to do something and wanting security, but arming security staff will hurt rather than help. I therefore ask you please do NOT do this.

    I’d also suggest for similar reasons that you reconsider the practice of involving students in active shooter drills, which I suspect only ups the chances of a shooting, but that’s a discussion for another day. Thank you for your consideration.”

  4. Charlotte Scot says

    As a non-parent I have no problem helping to fund the education of young people in our community.
    However, I have a tremendous objection to funding guns in our schools.

    Research: Armed campus police do not prevent school shooting https://www.politifact.com/factchecks/2022/may/26/ted-cruz/research-armed-campus-police-do-not-prevent-school/?fbclid=IwAR0QcXY0-GNnMYqF3r9dYEIvlXtuv8Yco_v0W0EKY-V0yEw3djg_SnCC2ZI

    Our Superintendent needs to provide copies of all his research which identifies the need to buy guns while not improving security in the schools. I am sure that the people who have pushed for weaponizing our schools have good intentions but, I don’t think a ruling should have been approved without a complete presentation of facts. Once facts are presented and, if parents still feel our schools are not safe, they need to hire people to protect their kids, not charge taxpayers. Arming security personnel is a unnecessary and costly slippery slope. Who will decide how the security personnel will be armed? Will there be a bidding process for weapons? Should guards be given Assault rifles and who will decide what kind of arms will be purchased?.. Will personnel also need bullet proof vests? Next year will the parents want ten armed guards or guards in every class room?
    Promoting an armed environment incorrectly teaches children that guns solve problems. It also gives kids a false sense of security. (School likely will be the only place where they are protected by guns, unless we want guns at the library, and grocery store, and local restaurants, or on our neighborhood streets). This is not just a school issue. This is a community issue. Let’s take more time to make this decision and not rush to subsidize gun manufacturers.

  5. Roger and Mary Jo Nosal says

    Chairman Steve,

    Under The Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), correspondence is most certainly allowed in a special public meeting if correspondence is noted on the agenda. We would also argue that correspondence is public comment when it is addressed to the Superintendent and The Board of Education (BOE). The BOE leadership should have and could have included correspondence on the agenda of this special public meeting, especially, if as you say, “Correspondence and in person comment are high priorities for this Board.” Like Betsy Groth, our letter to the Superintendent and BOE was not addressed in this public meeting.

    Roger and Mary Jo Nosal
    Old Lyme

  6. Jim Ward says

    I have been involved in education for over 40 years serving as a board member and board chair, a teacher now finishing my career as a technology coordinator. Next year will be the first time I will vote against an education budget. I can not and will not support Region 18’s recent decision to arm security guards.
    Superintendent Neviaser says this was not a knee-jerk reaction to the Texas shooting? It was only a couple of weeks ago we hear Region 18 is considering arming security guards, then at a recent Special Board meeting, they vote to arm security personnel while many residents and parents were saying please slow down. Show us the evidence.
    I want to thank Martha Shoemaker and Anna James for voting against this proposal.
    More guns are not the solution!

  7. Jonathan B. Wilder says

    Once again,we have collectively decided that guns are the solution to the gun problem.I would like to know how the people carrying these guns are chosen and who they are.Just because they may be ex-military does not mean they are wonderful.What kind of guns will they be carrying?Police at Uvalde backed off due to feeling outgunned by the shooter.Can we be assured that the security guards in our school system will charge in to neutralize any shooter or shooters?

    All of this is a bandaid approach by school systems across the country because nationally,second amendment enthusiasts and gun worshippers will not allow us to collectively solve the problem.We are all hostage to “their” cultural proclivities.Really sad.Very very sad.