UPPER DARBY — The Upper Darby School Board is holding off on a policy to allow armed security officers in its schools pending further revisions.

Adoption of a proposed revision to Policy 316.1 was expected at the board’s Oct. 9 meeting to allow the districtwide, 40-member school security personnel to carry a loaded firearm as part of their uniforms, but the policy was pulled from the agenda and put back into committee.

Administrators have suggested putting one armed officer in each of its 14 school buildings under the policy.

School board President Rachel Mitchell said the policy was going under “substantial” changes by the four-person policy review committee led by board member Lee Jordan with help by fellow board and committee members Ed Brown, Gina Curry and Don Fields. Jordan said after the meeting that they were cleaning up some of the policy language.

This is the first school safety initiative being entertained by the board since lengthy discussions on the topic started in February after the shooting at a Parkland, Fla., high school that killed or injured 34 people.

The anticipated vote on Tuesday night came after discussion by the board and the public at a Sept. 25 committee meeting. When the board was trying to form a consensus to move it out of committee, board members Jordan, Neil Desnoyers and Ed Brown wanted to table the policy for further review. Such a delay was not advocated by Director of Public Safety Lou Gentile and acting Superintendent Dan McGarry, the latter overheard saying “that’s a shame” when he heard that board members wanted to table it.

Consensus was eventually made by the five other board members to put it to a final vote at the board's Oct. 9 meeting.

At the committee meeting two residents inquired about the data and research that supports arming school security officers. This was brought up again by another resident at Tuesday’s meeting.

“When it comes to armed guards in our childrens' schools, I don’t want a decision that’s based on intuition and common sense and anecdotes,” said Kyra Raphaelidis. “I want a decision that’s based on research and on facts.”

Raphaelidis added that she could not find research on armed personnel in a school making a building any safer.

“I want this decision to be made on evidence,” she said. “If you have the evidence I would like to know what it is and I think as a parent all of the parents and teachers have the right to know on what evidence this was proposed.”

Residents Arnold Jones and Rich Bly commented on the cultural disconnect between the black-majority student body and the presence of armed security.

“I would not like a phone call (that) my son was shot dead,” said Jones, calling the policy ridiculous.

Bly, who said he escaped the violence of Philadelphia to raise his family in Upper Darby, said the district is promoting fear about a perceived threat that might happen, “rather than educating our kids and teaching them how to live in peace.”

“We need to change our thought processes here folks,” said Bly. “We’re going in the wrong direction. You keep taking us down the road of ‘violence, violence, violence,’ and there’s no peace. We need to get it together.”

District resident and high school employee Amy Sandman continued to rally some support in favor of the policy by carrying over comments she made at the Sept. 25 committee meeting.

“The threat is not if, it’s when,” said Sandman. “I’m not trying to cancel anyone out, I’m trying to be sensitive to other peoples needs as well, but please understand that it’s not if, it’s when. Please do your best to make the right decisions for everyone.”

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