Guards To Patrol County Schools Some Students Believe Action Is Unnecessary
A 15-year-old boy threatens two Ferris High School students with a pistol in the school parking lot.
A freshman brings a .22-caliber handgun to West Valley High School and tries to sell it.
“We’re not immune to problems like that,” said Dave Smith, superintendent of the West Valley School District in the Spokane Valley.
That’s why Smith and other Spokane County school administrators decided to put unarmed security guards in high schools this fall.
Some students, however, don’t believe the guards are needed.
Spokane School District 81, East Valley, Central Valley and West Valley school districts all will beef up security.
At District 81’s five high schools, guards will patrol halls, monitor school events and provide violence-prevention training, said Joe Madsen, director of safety and risk management.
“They’ll be providing basic investigations and prevention - in terms of a visible show in the schools,” Madsen said.
But Kristy Kimbrough, who just completed her senior year at University High School, doesn’t think the guards will be of much use.
“I was at U-High for three years and I saw no need for it,” she said. She said the only real trouble at school included a fight and a few thefts from student lockers.
Josh Belzman, a recent graduate of North Central High School, says adding the guards is a bad idea.
“It makes it appear that school is a dangerous place, and I don’t think it is,” he said. “Even NC was considered a violent school - it has that perception - but I never encountered it.”
Mead School District has a person assigned to supervise the parking lot, but does not plan to hire additional security personnel, said Assistant Superintendent Al Swanson.
The three Valley districts and District 81 all have applied for state money to help pay for the security positions. If the money doesn’t come through, the jobs will remain, but might be scaled back at some districts, such as Central Valley, said acting CV Superintendent Wally Stanley.
At each high school, guards’ roles will likely vary, but they will share the goal of keeping rising crime out of the schools.
“We’re going to really need that help in the security of our campus,” said Chuck Stocker, superintendent of East Valley.
The number of weapons problems at Spokane County public schools increased 61 percent from 1992-93 to 1993-94, according to a state report released this year.
School administrators hope to hire guards who will relate well to the students and make them feel safer, rather than intimidated.
Outlined in the three Valley school districts’ joint application for state money is a job description for the “campus supervisors.” Duties include: supervising restrooms, parking lots, hallways and student activities, assisting in crime investigation on campus and intervening in fights.
“It has to be someone who can work with kids but still has law enforcement background,” said Smith, who also wants a person capable of training the community on violence prevention issues.
Smith plans to hold a community meeting within the next couple of weeks to get input on what a security guard’s role should be.
Discipline problems now fall on the shoulders of assistant principals, who feel their jobs are moving farther away from education every day.
“Assistant principals are turning into disciplinarians,” said Mike Van Matre, assistant principal at East Valley High School. “There’s not much time for education.”
Neighborhood resource officers from the Spokane Police Department and sheriff’s deputies have helped with security. They are assigned to the schools inside the geographic areas they cover. Being at the school full-time is not their sole responsibility, and school security needs have increased.
“There’s more work there than our people can squeeze in in their free time,” said Spokane County Sheriff John Goldman, who’s been working with Valley superintendents to develop the new security program.
“We’re not yet at the stage where we need armed guards,” Goldman said, “but if we don’t take some steps, we may get there before we know it.”
, DataTimes The following fields overflowed: BYLINE = Alison Boggs Staff writer Staff writer Gita Sitaramiah contributed to this report.