Experts: Trained police needed for school security
BY Associated Press
Saturday, December 29, 2012
12/29/12 at 6:10 AM
WASHINGTON (AP) - The student's attack began with a shotgun blast through the windows of a California high school. Rich Agundez, the El Cajon policeman assigned to the school, felt his mind shift into overdrive.
People yelled at him amid the chaos but he didn't hear. He experienced "a tunnel vision of concentration."
While two teachers and three students were injured when the glass shattered in the 2001 attack on Granite Hills High School, Agundez confronted and wounded the assailant before he could get inside the school and use his second weapon, a handgun.
The National Rifle Association's response to a Connecticut school massacre envisions, in part, having trained, armed volunteers in every school in America. But Agundez, school safety experts and school board members say there's a huge difference between a trained law enforcement officer - who becomes part of the school family - and a guard with a gun.
The NRA's proposal has sparked a debate across the country as gun control rises once again as a national issue. President Barack Obama promised to present a plan in January to confront gun violence in the aftermath of the killing of 20 Sandy Hook Elementary School students and six teachers in Newtown, Conn.
Agundez said what happened before the shooting in the San Diego County school should frame the debate over the NRA's proposal.
A former SWAT team member, Agundez's preparation placed him in simulated stressful situations and taught him to evade a shooter's bullets. And the kids in the school knew to follow his advice because they knew him. He spoke in their classrooms and counseled them when they came to him with problems.
In the wake of the Sandy Hook massacre, school boards, administrators, teachers and parents are reviewing their security measures.
Former Rep. Asa Hutchinson, who also was a top Homeland Security official and will head the NRA effort, said the program will have two key elements.
One is a model security plan "based on the latest, most up-to-date technical information from the foremost experts in their fields." Each school could tweak the plan to its own circumstances.
The second element may prove the more controversial because, to avoid massive funding for local authorities, it would use volunteers. He said retired police officers, former members of the military or rescue personnel would be among those likely to volunteer.
"Our association would be uncomfortable with volunteers," said Mo Canady, executive director of the National Association of School Resource Officers - whose members are mostly trained law enforcement officers who "become part of the school family.' "
Canady questioned how police officers responding to reports of a shooter would know whether the person with a gun is a volunteer or the assailant.
Original Print Headline: Experts: Trained police needed for school safety
Rich Agundez Jr., who confronted and wounded a student who attacked Granite Hills High School with a shotgun in 2001, testifies in El Cajon. Agundez and others say there's a huge difference between a trained law enforcement officer who becomes part of the school family and a guard with a gun. Associated Press file