PIX11 Investigates: How armed guards interact with students

WEST WINDSOR, NJ—This school year at Dutch Neck Elementary and throughout the entire West Windsor-Plainsboro School District there are armed, retired police officers patrolling the school.

“The promises made to parents were that the police officers were there just in case of a shooting, and that the police officers are not there for any disciplinary action,” said Veronica Mehno.

The mother of three, who objected to armed officers in the first place, said those promises were broken.

She said a female officer entered a boys bathroom because her son and a friend were having some trouble with a stall door. Later, the same officer pulled her son’s friend out a class for a discussion about what happened.

The unusual situation raised questions about the protocol for the gun-wielding officers.

“The superintendent had said police officers are not allowed to go to the classrooms uninvited, and a police officer is not allowed to pull a student out of the classroom,” Mehno said.

The district did not return repeated calls by PIX11 for comment about its security policy, even after a security officer approached our camera to inquire about this news report.

Mehno said she too was dismissed by administrators and the mayor, though she said she did eventually have a good conversation with the local police chief.

“He said he knows the program needs some tweaking and he is happy to make those corrections and he’s happy to rely on parent’s feedback,” she said.

However, Dutch Neck is far from the only school in the area that now has armed guards or police officers in the wake of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas tragedy, which left 17 people dead.

PIX11 found at least one school district in most North Jersey counties that made the security move, including Secaucus, Fort Lee, Franklin Township, Clifton and Scotch Plains-Fanwood.

On Long Island, Massapequa, Miller Place, Mount Sinai, Montauk, West Babylon and Hauppauge are just several of the districts that have armed guards.

“I think it makes a lot of people feel safer,” said one West Babylon parent after the news of the district adding armed guards was announced.

But not everyone feels that way.

“Having guns in schools is kind of disturbing to me,” said another parent.

In NYC, the NYPD maintains 5,000 unarmed safety agents at schools, along with 200 armed police officers deployed as-needed.

In the wake of the Parkland shooting, Mayor Bill de Blasio said it would cost $1.2 billion annually to put armed officers in front of each of the 1,800 public schools in the city. However, the mayor said he believes more guns are not the answer, just more awareness.

“Students, parents, teachers, everyone has to be a part of this,” de Blasio said one year ago. “If they see anything, we need to know right away.”

Back in the West Windsor-Plainsboro, Mehno suggest parents in school districts with armed guards, or considering armed guards, demand their school officials be transparent about what’s going on.

“Ask the questions,” she said. “You are the biggest advocate for your child. You know what works for you and your family, and obviously everybody wants their children safe.”

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