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Armed deputies to patrol Boone County's public elementary schools

Posted at 4:50 PM, Feb 23, 2018
and last updated 2018-02-23 17:58:32-05

BURLINGTON, Ky. -- Armed deputies will patrol all 15 of Boone County's public elementary schools beginning Monday, according to a news release from Sheriff Michael Helmig.

The announcement arrived in the wake of a deadly Valentine's Day shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, where 17 students and staff died at the hands of a suspect wielding an AR-15. That shooting sparked an apparent wave of copycat threats in its immediate aftermath, five of which were made by Boone County students.

"Our students deserve a safe learning environment and their parents deserve to know we will do what is necessary to protect their children," Boone County Schools superintendent Randy Poe said in a news release.

Marjory Stoneman Douglas had an armed deputy, Scot Peterson, on duty at the time of the shooting, but Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel said Thursday Peterson never went inside while the shooting occurred. 

He was suspended without pay after the incident and opted to resign.

According to Helmig, the Boone County Sheriff's Office already provides armed security to middle and high schools in the county. The cost of the new school resource officers' salaries will be split between the district and the sheriff's office, Boone County Schools spokeswoman Barbara Cain-Brady wrote.

"This is simply an expansion of the program through the end of the year until a permanent solution is worked out," sheriff's office spokesman Tom Scheben wrote.

School shootings frequently spur calls for greater security in schools, whether it be armed resource officers or armed staff.

After the 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary shooting, which claimed the lives of six teachers and 20 students under the age of 8, National Rifle Association president Wayne LaPierre pushed Congress "to act immediately to appropriate whatever is necessary to put armed police officers in every single school in this nation." 

President Trump even suggested Thursday that teachers could earn a bonus by undergoing gun training and carrying a concealed weapon on school grounds. Florida's Webber International University announced the same day it would allow its faculty and staff to bring guns on campus; the sheriff's office said the change was predicated on the belief that "the only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun."

However, critics of increased police presence in schools point to the ineffectiveness of armed school resource officers in incidents such as the Florida shooting and the 1999 Columbine shooting as an argument against expanding this presence. According to New America, a nonpartisan think tank, the real consequences of police in schools can include a criminalization of ordinary misbehavior that disproportionately affects non-white students, creating a "school-to-prison pipeline."

A 2013 Congressional study found not enough data existed for researchers to draw reliable conclusions about the role armed school resource officers might play -- whether positive or negative -- in affecting school violence.