Armed school officers - a contentious issue - KUAM.com-KUAM News: On Air. Online. On Demand.

Armed school officers - a contentious issue

by Krystal Paco

Guam – KUAM News first reported was first to bring you a story on the Department of Education partnering with the Judiciary of Guam to establish the school resource officer, which is a law enforcement official who will help keep schools safe, teach the law, and serve as a mentor for students.

But the big question has become: will SROs be carrying guns on campus? It may be jumping the gun to say school resource officers will be armed and loaded when they start their assignments at the island's five public high schools next year. According to DOE student support administrator Chris Anderson, SROs nationwide have guns and Guam should not be an exception.

As a past school administrator, Anderson has personally confiscated weapons from students on campus. "What DOE is hoping to be able to establish is law enforcement personnel who are fully equipped to be able to do their job on school campuses," he explained. "A firearm is part of the uniform its part of the equipment that I think a law enforcement person needs in order to effectively do their job if you had an active shooter or some immediate threat," he said.

According to Judiciary of Guam director of policy planning and community relations Josh Tenorio, SROs are Judiciary employees and the decision on whether they will be armed on campus has yet to be decided. "It's not a final decision the chief justice is concerned about the program. He's talking with stakeholders and he'll make a final decision, and that's a decision in his capacity is in charge of the probation officers, which are going to be used at the request of the Department of Education," he said.

Anderson hopes the Judiciary will consider allowing SROs to be armed on school grounds. He adds that as law enforcement personnel, SROs will be able to make arrests but will always work in conjunction with school administration. "An SRO who is not fully equipped is not going to be any different than any other person on that campus," he said. "We're asking the community to support what's trying to be accomplished between the different agencies."

Both Anderson and Tenorio assure that SROs have extensive firearm training and hold degrees in criminal justice. One SRO is also trained as military police. The five are scheduled to be sworn in this friday. Supreme Court of Guam Chief Justice F. Philip Carbullido has until January 3, when the SROs begin their duties at the high schools to decide whether they will be equipped with firearms. 

In the meantime Speaker Judi Won Pat, who also is the chairperson of the Committee on Education, and as Senator Judi Guthertz, a former education board member, are expressing their concerns about the possibility of SROs being armed with a gun. 

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