April 22, 2024

HHH Board Discusses Arming Guards at Schools

On November 13th, 2022, the Half Hollow Hills Board of Education met to discuss the future of armed guards in our district. The trustee members agreed that the primary intent of the meeting was to really “hear from the individuals” and “actually ask questions.” There were many questions about the security companies that would provide armed security, specifically about the training and hiring of the guards. 

Board trustee Micheal Prywes voiced his opinions at this meeting. During a previous board meeting, when the implementation of armed guards was presented, he was against it. At that initial meeting, Prywes stated:  “It would be reckless of our district to spend at least a million dollars of taxpayer money on a particularized risk mitigation measure that had no data to support such expenditure.” After individually researching the topic, Prywes still stood by his previous beliefs. In addition to Prywes, many other trustees voiced their opinions. 

A quarter of the way through the November meeting, Board Trustee Eric Geringslwald shared his perspective on the subject, “I want to be sure that if I’m gonna vote to have a gun on our campus, that I’m gonna be sure and confident that that company is gonna do the right thing and have the right person.” Eric Geringslwald’s claim addressed the typical troubles that the community is facing. What if one of the security guards is not well-trained? What if the security company does not aim to do the right thing for the student? All of these questions were debated during the trustee meeting, and while they could not come to a comprehensive “answer,” the meeting sparked new and distinct discussions over the proposal. 

The idea of implementing armed guards has been floating around since last year. In fact, on May 23rd, an email was sent to all HHH parents and staff, which asked: “whether or not to have armed security stationed at the perimeter of each property.” It is roughly estimated that about 8,000 parents and 2,000 staff members received the email, with responses coming from 1,620 parents and 607 staff members. The reactions from both parents and staff undeniably favored armed guards, with responses explicitly being:

Parents – 77.4% said yes, 13.1% said no, and 9.4% were uncertain at this time. 

Staff – 75% said yes, 13.7% said no, and 11.4% were uncertain.

The U.S. has seen a striking increase in the amount of gun violence, especially in school settings. According to The Washington Post, more than 360,000 students have experienced gun violence at school since 1999. Due to this tragic increase in school gun violence, several schools have proposed the idea of having armed guards to increase security, including our school, and several parents/staff seem to be in support of the concept. Roughly a year ago, a South Huntington school district voted to hire armed guards to protect the schools. In an online article published by WABC-TV eyewitness news, the South Huntington school district Board President stated that approximately 70% of parents agreed with implementing armed guards. 

With several schools nationwide implementing armed guards, many community members wonder how the new security would be implemented. According to Dr. Catapano, “This final decision regarding the implementation of armed guards is made by the members of the Board of Education. If the Board of Education chooses to execute this proposal, a security company must be hired. The school district releases an RFP (Request for Proposals) to outline the requirements for our district’s security needs to choose a company. This process helps to “acquire the costs and qualifications from local security companies.” Superintendent Dr. Harrigan’s central role in this process would be to help hire a security company that provides armed guards (through RFP).  

Dr. Harrigan stated, “A potential benefit of an armed guard stationed in the parking lot is that it could reduce the response time to stop an active shooter incident, rather than waiting for the Suffolk County Police, who are not stationed at our schools to arrive.” While many feel that this would benefit our school, some individuals in the community have expressed strong opposition.

On February 5th, 2024, our Board of Education met again for about two hours, but this time with representatives from the Suffolk County Police Department. Once again, the meeting was open for any questions or discussion. Although no concrete decision was made, the incidence of these Board meetings means that our school district is heavily considering armed guards. 

When asked about their thoughts on implementing armed guards in the district, most students had some valid concerns. Junior Peter Stallone expressed that he feels our current security guards should take the time to become licensed weapon holders because “the salary of multiple armed guards will distract from other funding the schools in our district need.” Likewise, senior Karma Wangyal wondered “ if the cost of hiring them will be out of our budget,” even though she feels the district could benefit from them. In both perspectives, there is a similar theme of “budget” and “money,” which seems to be among the factors students are most concerned about. 

Additionally, junior Emmanuel Saintjean claimed that he feels conflicted, much like other parents and faculty in the community. He said he would feel  “concerned about the presence of weapons on our school campus, but if these guards are truly able to protect us from dangerous intruders, then it could be worth it.” 

From several parental opinions, it can be determined that students, parents, and faculty are all concerned about roughly the same issues. While some parents feel safer with the presence of extra security for their children, others feel threatened by weapons on our campus. Even a sophomore at HSW explained that “I would be more for stricter regulations on guns than just handing them out more” because, in her opinion, more guns would lead to more accidents; therefore, she thinks that we would be better off eliminating guns from the equation or enforcing stricter laws on them. 

As the Half Hollow Hills community continues to discuss the possibility, the Board of Education gathers research and parents’, faculty’s, and students’ thoughts to make the best decision. Dr. Catapano emphasized that “the members of the board of education always have the best interests of the students of the district in mind.” 

If you want to learn more about this topic, a future board meeting will be on March 4. Concerned students and community members can watch sessions via a live stream or after as meetings are archived. Please visit the main HHH website.