(KTVI) - St. Louis County Police Chief Tim Fitch says having guns in school may not be a bad idea if the right, trained personnel are in place.
Fitch visited classrooms on Monday, just days after the St. Louis County police stepped up patrols around school in response to the Sandy Hook elementary school shooting on Newtown, Connecticut.
Fitch ignited a heated discussion after he tweeted his suggestion about school safety. Chief Fitch thinks schools that don’t have armed resource officers should consider training an educator about guns and keeping a gun in a safe place at school in case of an emergency. Chief Fitch said, “I guarantee you there’s somebody out there planning something bigger than what we saw in Connecticut.”
Following the killings in Newtown the chief said it’s time to talk about what he calls a touchy and sensitive issue. Arming school personnel he believes could make classrooms safer against intruders. Chief Fitch said, “He (the Newtown intruder) walked into the school, he was armed with legally obtained firearms and he knew once police arrived it was over. So what can we do in that time piece in the middle to stop this. And, once of this option is to have properly trained people that actually work in the school if they don’t have school resource officers to be able to take action if something like that happens.
The chief does have people talking. Sarah Heend has children in public schools. Heend said, “If you had a gun there’s a chance that the wrong person is shot.” Kathy Murphy, a grandmother added, “He (the intruder) was in two classrooms so fast I don’t know that would have helped. But Terry Arndt supports the chief’s proposal, “It certainly would cut short hopefully any intruder that come in armed and it might be in fact a deterrent in itself.”
The presidents of the American Federation of Teachers here in St. Louis said arming teachers is a bad idea. Mary Armstrong said, “What’s to say a student wouldn’t get hold of the gun or even if its behind locked doors our student are ingenious they find a way to get into anything computers you know it.”
Chief Fitch added, “We cannot continue to do things as we’ve always done it, that’s why we need to have frank discussion in this country as to where we go from here.” He said it’s a decision that schools will have to make.
Thousand of students across the St. Louis area headed back to school Monday for the first time since the Connecticut tragedy. Many schools planned to have counselors on-hand to speak with any students who may want to talk about what happened.
Parents in the Rockwood School District, St. Louis County's largest school district, received an email from Superintendent Bruce Borchers over the weekend about how the district plans to move forward with school on Monday.
With the images of the Connecticut shooting still fresh on the minds of many, Borchers said he was hearing 'overwhelming sadness' from the Rockwood community in wake of the tragedy.
Borcher says Monday could be challenging for students and that Rockwood's focus will be on the students' learning environment and providing consistency for them in their school routines. Borchers went on to say that staff members will listen to students' concerns and that guidance counselors will be available for them.
Similar letters have gone home in other St. Louis area school districts. Parents may also see extra St. Louis County police officers around elementary schools Monday as well.