Prior to December 14, 2012, I was proud that my school did not have resource police officers on our campus, especially when I compared our school to the neighboring community & district schools.
Camelback Academy is a K-8 charter school, with 530 students in Glendale, AZ. We are located 3 miles from the worst crime area in the west valley of Phoenix. We are somewhat multicultural, but Hispanic and White students make up the majority of our student population. Additionally, 82% of our families fall within the federal government’s poverty threshold and qualify for free or reduced breakfast and lunch.
On Dec. 14th, I stood in disbelief & envisioned my school, my staff and my students as Bill Hemmer from Fox News announced the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary. Connecticut may be 3000 miles from AZ, but this tragedy hit way too close to home. I immediately went into momma-bear mode, thinking about what I needed to do to stop some lunatic from harming one of my students or staff.
I experienced a heightened sense of “worst-case scenario” preparedness as I drove on to campus and walked the halls of my school over the next several days. I strategized how to better secure our classroom buildings from intruders or unauthorized visitors, including hiring resource officers. Then I remembered two important facts; the city ceased funding for school resource officers in 2009 and Camelback Academy is not a district school.
As an Arizona charter school, Camelback Academy contracts with the state to provide public education. We are a small business and an individual school district, as such; we are afforded more autonomy than district schools, (government entities.) 90% of the time, this is a good thing, but when it comes to funding equality and working with our local city governments, we hit roadblocks. School districts and cities say that charter schools have a negative impact on the community; not because we fail to educate our students well, but because our students take money out of the district’s pocket.
As a small business owner, I look at education differently. I think competition is good for growth, even in schools! When I see an excelling school, I don’t whine and call foul; I learn from their successes and implement changes that will make us a better school.
We have learned to be resourceful and creative, what we lack in funds we have in abundance with teamwork. We have 2 parents who are Maricopa County Police Officers. One of our dads offered to volunteer as a resource officer on our campus whenever needed; we’ve already called on him, on December 21st, (the day that the world was to end.)
Our Sheriff, Joe Arpaio, (love that man!) is putting his money where his mouth is by setting up posse members to patrol areas near schools. Most of the areas where he is proposing already have posse members, and are not high crime areas, but at least he is doing something!
Our Attorney General, Tom Horne wants to have an armed teacher or administrator at each school. While I am an avid 2nd Amendment proponent, I question the wisdom of arming teachers for two reasons.
- I taught elementary and as a Kindergarten teacher, I had kids on or near me all the time. I was constantly on the move; sitting on the floor, at stations, at my desk. I would not be comfortable conceal-carrying in a classroom environment, especially in an elementary classroom.
- Teachers spend most of their time supervising students in their classrooms, not in the common areas, so I don’t see the practicality of an armed teacher.
However, having said that, I do agree with the idea of an armed administrator or key employee who doesn’t have constant and direct contact with students, and who has the ability to be anywhere on campus at a moment’s notice.
We cannot put a price on keeping our students and staff safe. If city and state governments are not willing or able to provide the resources schools need to tighten security, then they need to loosen the restrictions of weapons on campus and allow us to implement programs that will protect our own.