Smithtown Central School District set to hire armed guards

Smithtown Central School District set to hire armed guards

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File photo by Rachel Shapiro

Smithtown Central School District recently made the decision to enhance security in its schools, which includes two high schools, three middle and seven elementary schools.

A decision to hire armed guards was announced in a Feb. 15 letter signed by Superintendent Mark Secaur and the Board of Education trustees.

“The safety and security of the students, faculty, staff and community members of the Smithtown Central School District has been, and will continue to be, a top priority,” the letter read.

It was stated that over time the district’s “security enhancements related to staffing, infrastructure, training, and operational protocols have evolved and improved.” The decision was made to “better protect the members of this school community.”

The letter said national news reports are reminders that “schools have occasionally been viewed as ‘soft’ targets and the scene of senseless tragedies caused by ‘active shooters.’”

“With this in mind and with a heavy heart,” the letter continued, “our district has made the decision to bolster our security detail by adding armed guards to the exterior perimeter of each of our schools to strengthen our ability to respond during a crisis, as well as to deter those who may seek to do harm.”

The superintendent and trustees said the security enhancement will improve response time in the case of an emergency in and around its buildings.

The district is in the early stages of the process, currently identifying security firms which will have to be vetted and approved by the Board of Education.

“The guards will be required to undergo multiple training sessions per year and will need to re-qualify through periodic performance based assessments to ensure they will perform at an optimal level if ever called upon,” the letter emphasized.

In addition, armed guards will work with the Suffolk County Police Department.

While the armed guards will be stationed throughout the school district, officials cannot “comment on specific details such as guard deployments, locations and working hours as it may compromise their safety and effectiveness.”

The superintendent and board members said in the letter that the guards will not be posted inside the buildings.

“This decision has not come lightly, but we believe that this is a necessary step to improve our approach to the safety and security of our students, faculty, staff and community members,” the letter concluded.

According to the district’s 2023-24 General Fund Budget Overview, $850,000 has been allocated for the proposal.

When TBR reached out to the district to ask if school officials could elaborate, a media spokesperson said, “The district is not providing any comments outside of the community letter.”

The Kings Park school district, which also is located within the Town of Smithtown, has permitted certain security guards employed in the district to be armed while on duty since 2018, according to Superintendent Tim Eagen. The district did not hire an outside armed security firm, and all of the security guards are retired law enforcement officers who carry law-enforcement issued firearms.

In a discussion thread about armed guards in the Smithtown school district on the Facebook group Smithtown Moms, there was overwhelming support of the proposal. While a few mothers said there have been instances that guards haven’t been a deterrent in past incidents in the country, many felt the decision was long overdue.

Members of the Facebook group Suffolk Progressives have been less supportive of the move and one member has started a petition, Remove Armed Guards from Smithtown Schools, with 110 signatures as at Feb. 22. Petition signers and Suffolk Progressives wrote that more needs to be done to fund mental health programs and ban the sale of assault weapons.

The Smithtown school district will hold its next board meeting March 14 at 7 p.m.