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School officers an invaluable resource

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By The Gazette

For Twin County parents, it might be hard to understand the national debate about placing armed police officers in schools. To many, it probably seems an obvious, proven and effective security measure.
Schools in Carroll, Grayson and Galax have had resource officers at high schools for years, and this arrangement has been praised by educators, law enforcement, parents and even students. The program is now expanding to elementary schools after the deadly Newtown, Conn., school shootings of 2012.
Parents in other parts of the U.S., where resource officers aren’t already used, might not understand how this relationship between education and protection works.
Since the idea to expand the resource officer program spread nationwide, school resource officers have been getting a bad rap. They’ve been vilified as armed guards turning our nation’s schools into prisons. Some worry about a generation growing up in schools where there is a constant police presence.
Nothing could be further from the truth, as those who have seen the program in action can attest. Resource officers like Vicky Taylor at GHS are deterrents, authority figures and trusted confidants for students — and prepared every day to lay down their lives if necessary to protect students.
At a time of knee-jerk and emotional reactions to school violence, Galax has instead taken the measured and appropriate response by placing Officer Fred Bobbitt at the elementary school, where he has been welcomed with open arms. Having a trained officer on campus is a far better idea than others floated in the weeks after Newtown, such as allowing teachers to bring weapons to school.
This program also provide another service, by portraying officers not as unapproachable figures, but people children can turn to for help.
Officers in schools will not create a police state. Instead, they create a state where our children can learn without fear.
Galax Police Chief Rick Clark said he wasn’t hiring a “security guard” for GES, but choosing someone who would “stand in harm’s way to protect these children.”
Resource officers don’t lead to a nation living under the gun, as detractors have portrayed the outcome, but a nation living under a shield.