Ever since the horrifying killing of 19 young students and two teachers at an elementary school in Texas three weeks ago, the national conversation concerning how to protect our children when they are in school has taken a more urgent tone.

While Congress debates how or if to enact any laws that could have a real impact on the gun violence crisis in America, local communities are also struggling to find ways to keep the students in our classrooms safe when we send them off to school.

South Jersey is no different.

Thursday night, the Middle Township Board of Education will consider a recommendation by Christopher Leusner, the Middle Twp Chief of Police to install armed guards at the entrances of Middle's high school, middle school, and two elementary schools.

In an article in the Press of Atlantic City, the chief admits his recommendation comes after seeing the carnage in Texas and worrying about his own son, who is a student in the school district.

If you were a member of the Middle Township BOE what would you decide on Thursday? Armed guards at the school doors or not?

I have two daughters in the Atlantic City school system, and, like all parents, I've been weighing the best way to keep my children safe.

Atlantic City High School uses metal detectors at its entrances.

My daughters tell me metal detectors can be a very cumbersome and time-consuming process, but I don't care.  I like it and it does make me feel safer knowing that it can stop some of the potential violence my loved ones could face. Is it a perfect system? I doubt it.

If I were a decision-maker in Middle Township's school district, here are some answers I would like before committing to armed guards at school doors.

- Manpower. Who will these guards be and how many would it take to do the job?

- Are qualified people available in the Middle Township area to make this a reality? The police chief admits he is having a hard time just hiring regular police officers these days.

- How many guards are needed?

- Is one guard at a door enough?

- What kind of guns would these officers carry?

- What would the training be and what is the realistic expectation of having these officers at the door?

- Who is responsible for these officers?

- What if one of them goes out on leave for a week? Are there other backup officers prepared to take the spot?

- How much will all this cost and will it increase the taxpayers' bottom line?

I'm sure you could easily add to my growing list of questions.

Even after knowing all these answers as best I could, I would remain somewhat skeptical about armed guards at school doors in all circumstances.

A 2019 report in The Trace found that armed guards just don't seem to prevent school shootings.

... gunmen have often targeted schools with armed guards. In four high-profile 2018 school shootings — Kentucky’s Marshall County High School in January; Florida’s Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in February; Maryland’s Great Mills High School in March, and Santa Fe High School in Texas in May — attackers stormed campuses despite the presence of armed guards. In all four of those cases, guards failed to stop the gunman from killing.

Good luck to Middle Township BOE members. I bet you didn't think this would be on your agenda when you signed up for the job.

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