Montville school board approves armed security in schools
Montville — The Board of Education voted unanimously Monday to authorize the Superintendent of Schools Laurie Pallin to employ armed security officers at each of the town’s schools.
“Montville has a fairly aggressive school safety program, but we’re looking to bring it to a new level based on what we’ve seen in surrounding communities like Griswold, Putnam, Old Lyme,” school board Chairman Wills Pike said.
The board also voted unanimously to use Montville police officers as School Resource Officers (SRO), which would require a Memorandum of Understanding with the police department. In order to fund the new security patrols, the board voted unanimously to authorize Pallin to request additional funding from the Town Council.
Pike believes the school system will need nine SROs to patrol its five schools. Though the exact cost of the officers is unknown at the moment, Pike said he will work with the council as well as Pallin to secure long term funding for the program. The Board of Education relies on funding provided by the town and the state.
“This can’t be a one-year deal,” Pike said. “This is going forward. We don’t know how long it’s going to last, but safety is always a priority.”
To have the patrols in place for the early fall, Pikes said it will have to work quickly. Pike mentioned that the board’s policy committee will have to review the plan and the full board will discuss the issue again before its next scheduled regular meeting on Aug. 16.
“It’s very significant,” Pike said. “We don’t plan on things to happen in Montville, but nobody plans it to happen anywhere in the United States.”
“We’re going to take care of your kids,” Pike assured parents.
Before discussing the plan in executive session Monday night, residents voiced their support for the added security measures.
“You have to always think there’s someone here to do harm to someone,” said Gary Murphy, a member of the town’s Public Safety Commission.
Town Councilor Lenny Bunnell Sr. was very blunt with his remarks.
“We have to arm our security officers,” the 42-year veteran and former lieutenant of the Montville Police Department said.
Councilor Robert Yuchniuk said he is willing to risk votes for re-election to the council in order to change the status-quo with school security.
“I will propose and agree to any cost to protect our children,” he said.
Vic Lenda, a 40-year resident of Montville and a 30-year veteran of the Connecticut State Police, said he was “always in favor” of arming guards in schools and called for a greater police presence in general.
The board’s discussion comes in the aftermath of the tragedy in Uvalde, Texas which claimed the lives of 19 children and two teachers. The May shooting was one of many incidents cited by members of the public in support of the discussed security measures.
“Thoughts and prayers are not enough,” Murphy explained to the board.
This is not the first time a municipality in New London County has delved into this topic. Lyme-Old Lyme’s Board of Education discussed the matter in a June 6 meeting and voted 7-2 to implement armed security guards in schools beginning in the 2022-2023 academic year.
“I don’t know if there needs to be any more research,” Iamee Estelle, the mother of students in the high school and middle school. “The people with the weapons are trained.”
She said she was “surprised” more parents were not at the meeting and called the matters “very important.”
The armed security guards in Lyme and Old Lyme are retired law enforcement officers. Murphy said he went to visit a friend who works in the Old Lyme school system and got a peak of the way the district is handling its new security.
“I was shocked how good they do things,” Murphy said.
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