Debate continues on armed SROs on campus - KUAM.com-KUAM News: On Air. Online. On Demand.

Debate continues on armed SROs on campus

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by Krystal Paco

Guam - Sparks are flying over whether school resource officers will be armed on campus when they begin their assignments at the island's five public high schools in January. It was earlier this year the Department of Education partnered with the Judiciary of Guam to establish the SRO - a law enforcement officer to keep schools safe, teach the law, and serve as a mentor.

But for Southern High School senior Rocky Topasna, an SRO is unnecessary. Topasna calls the school his second home and believes there's no need for a gun on campus. "I'm totally against having SROs on campus," he said. "We have enough with our aides already and our aides are pretty much are law enforcers here along with our principal, Mr. [James] Petite."

Petite himself disagrees as just last week he confiscated a 9" knife from one of his students. As of today's decision, the student will be transferred to the island's alternative school. "One of the school aides had seen a young man nonchalantly showing it to his peers," Petite explained. "He brought it to school knowing it was against the school rules, so the thing we talked about is what would've happened if someone had gotten a hold of it and was angry. Somebody could have seriously been hurt."

Petite welcomes an armed SRO on his campus, recalling the death of student Jeromy Newby, a victim of school violence back in 2006. Petite says many may contest such law enforcement on school grounds for the wrong reasons. "It's not just some guy sitting in an office waiting to bust some kids with drugs or weapons or something - it's actually going out there to try to prevent them from doing things like this," he said.

According to Department of Youth Affairs statistics, 477 minors were taken into custody in 2010 for reasons including being beyond control, violating court orders, alcohol relation, aggravated assault, and disorderly conduct. 56 were students from Southern High. Petite said, "These kids here, they're wonderful kids yeah they make some bad choices sometimes, but let's just catch them before they do damage. One, to themselves, or somebody else."

The five SROs are set to be sworn in December 16 and begin their assignments at the high schools on January 3. The final decision on whether the SRO will be armed rests in the hands of Supreme Court of Guam Justice F. Philip Carbillido. 

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