City education officials appear to have no interest in a proposal pending in Community Education Council 24 that seeks armed retired police officers in all city schools.
The agenda for CEC 24’s meeting on Jan. 22 contains a draft resolution calling on the Department of Education to hire retired NYPD officers as armed “special patrolmen” to “supplement current unarmed security personnel in NYC public schools.”
A copy of the resolution, attached to a meeting agenda sent to the Chronicle on Tuesday, also calls on the Department of Education to install buzzer-entry and front-door-video surveillance equipment at all schools and to install “panic buttons” that link directly to NYPD dispatchers.
Nick Comaianni, president of CEC 24, said the resolution is definitely in response to the Dec. 14 school massacre in Newtown, Conn., and is modeled on a similar proposal under consideration on Staten Island.
“What if the principal or the teacher who lunged at that gunman in Connecticut had been armed?” Comaianni asked on Tuesday. “You might not have had as many casualties. Maybe you have only two. Maybe none. We have to look at that scenario.”
In an email to the Queens Chronicle, DOE spokesman David Pena said a safe learning environment is one of the city’s top priorities.
“As the largest school district in the country, we know what works, and putting an armed guard in every building is not the answer,” he said.
Pena added that city schools are the safest they have been in more than a decade “thanks to our collaboration with the NYPD, reforms to our discipline code to promote safety, anti-bullying and peer mediation, and work to remove illegal guns from the street.”
Dmytro Fedkowskyj, a past president of CEC 24, serves as Borough President Helen Marshall’s appointee to the Panel on Educational Policy.
He too scoffed at the idea, saying that the DOE and the NYPD address all security concerns immediately.
“We as a society have to ask ourselves ‘What kind of climate and learning environment do we want to create for our kids in public school?’” Fedkowskyj said in an email on Tuesday. He believes armed officers would be a distraction.
“We need to create a warm and inviting environment for our children,” he said. “There is no guarantee that an armed security officer can protect every child within each school. I believe it’s just an accident waiting to happen.”
Nationally, critics have railed against a proposal by the National Rifle Association to place armed guards in schools. Fedkowskyj said that was the NRA’s way of “deflecting from a bigger problem and concern, which is that we have way too much youth gun violence in our country.”
And Comaianni expects that the Council may catch some heat.
“But we sat down and talked about it as a Council,” he said. “I know as a parent with kids in school I would feel better.”
The draft resolution says the retired officers would not be involved in regular discipline situations at schools, and Comaianni stressed that the weapons would have to be concealed.
“A lot of law enforcement is judgment,” he said. “Retired police officers have been trained to see what might get out of hand.”
He added that the cost would be minimal, as all schools in the city have at least one security officer and some have more.
“If you have two, you have one unarmed security officer and one retired police officer working for the same salary,” he said.
Fedkowskyj concurred with a review of security measures, such as panic buttons, locked entrances and improved camera protection. But he also said security measures need to be consistent through out the system, “so that trained security officers can work throughout the city in every school.”
Fedkowskyj also said the city would be better off spending the “millions on armed officers” on programs to combat youth gun violence.
He said panic buttons would require little more technology or equipment than existing school fire alarms, and that most if not all of the schools in District 24 already have some sort of camera array.
“And in a school system that has billions of dollars in its budget, a few million for security is nothing. They spend more on advertising and some programs that just don’t work.”
The Jan. 22 meeting is scheduled for 7 p.m. at IS 73 at 70-02 54 Ave. in Maspeth.