Officials Not In Favor Of Armed Officers At Guam Schools
By Louella Losinio
HAGÅTÑA, Guam (Marianas Variety Guam, Feb. 1, 2013) – With the issue ofarming school resource officers (SROs) currently under scrutiny, representatives from the teachers union, the education board and the Legislature concurred with the position of not authorizing the SROs to carry firearms on campus, but also expressed proactive measures to prevent gun-related violence from occurring within a school setup.
Although he has yet to see the project agreement, newly elected Guam Education Board (GEB) chairman Dr. Jose Q. Cruz said he concurs with the position made by Chief Justice Philip Carbullido about not authorizing school resource officers, or SROs, to carry firearms on school campuses.
Carbullido made the statement opposing the arming of SROs while deployed in school campuses, but also left the policy decision in the hands of GEB and the Legislature.
During his next trip off-island, Cruz said he will be meeting with board members from other school jurisdictions in the mainland as well as looking at areas where they have authorized arming SROs on campus.
Cruz also stressed the importance of looking at the sustainability of funds supporting the program. He said the evaluation of the program will be included in his agenda as newly elected GEB chair.
"One focus I have is really, what will happen if we ran out of federal grants. Therefore, it is important for me and the board to get some formative assessment right now," Cruz stated.
The Judiciary of Guam’s project application for the "Programman Inagof li’e," which includes funding for five school resource officers, was approved in January 2012. At that time, the Federal Program Division – in concurrence with GDOE's Programman Inagof li’e – provided assurances that the application does not provide for the procurement of weapons, uniforms, or other auxiliary equipment.
Currently, there are five SROs deployed in all public high schools on the island. The mission of the program is to enhance a safe atmosphere in the school, foster a positive relationship with the students, provide law-related education, and develop strategies to resolve problems affecting the youth.
Meanwhile, Franklin Perez, GFT representative to the Guam Education Board, stressed the importance of implementing proactive, preventative measures instead of allowing guns on campus.
"I worked with students at risk in the mainland for eight years in Las Vegas, the roughest areas you can find. There, where I was teaching, we have police officers with guns and metal detectors, but that is a different environment. Now, with regard to guns at school, I prefer to go more on the intervention side," Perez said.
He emphasized investing in simple measures such as interacting with and boosting the self-esteem of students.
"For instance, if an assistant principal for discipline invests in interacting with the 9th-graders of that school year, that’s a four-year investment. Why? Because those 9th-graders will know that this administrator of discipline cares and is out there talking to them," he said.
Perez added: "The other administrators must do the same thing – get out there, talk to the kids, interact with them. Give them compliments for their efforts because those detailed efforts expand as they progress toward graduation. Proactively, if you do this thing with proactive intervention in mind, you won’t need any weapons."
Speaker Judith Won Pat, in her weekly address, said the issue of firearms in the schools is a contentious issue. However, she said she "opposes any suggestion of arming SROs, or anyone for that matter, in schools."
"I would like to hear more from parents, law enforcement, educators, and experts before we consider any effort to place guns in the hands of employees on campus," the Speaker said.
Won Pat added that the Legislature is committed to working with families, mental health professionals, and other civic and religious voices in the community to address school safety, stating "there are better, safer and more appropriate ways to deal with this very serious issue than having guns on campus."
Effective prevention, she said, cannot wait until there is a gunman in a campus parking lot, an upset parent in the school offices, or a disruptive student in a classroom.
"We need resources such as mental health support and threat assessment teams in every school and community so that people can seek assistance when they recognize that someone is in trouble and requires help," she said.
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