About School Guards and SROs
When asked about arming public school teachers, many people avoid the issue by saying that they believe that a guard or School Resource Officer (SRO) should be able to protect the children and school staff. A little careful thought will reveal that a guard cannot be counted on to provide real protection for the children.
They cannot provide Real Protection
Here is why...
The error in thinking comes from viewing the school facility as a whole, as if from an eagle's eye view high above the city, where the buildings can be seen as separate entities, an oval track resting nearby with tiny speck-like students can just be seen working out, with more miniscule people walking singly, or in groups of twos and threes, across various parts of the campus carrying books, backpacks and musical instruments, all of this situated near a substantial parking lot where the SROs police car sits in a stationary position, somewhere, impressive, visible and assuring. Folks know this armed guard is at the school, or at least they assume he/she is there. Some school districts have to share an SRO between two or more schools due to budgetary limitations, but leave the car parked outside to give the impression than an officer is inside.
The correct way to look at Real Protection for the students is from the local view as seen by the classroom teacher, the first responder to any incident. That is, the correct way to begin looking at protection of the students is from a viewpoint inside the classroom. Why first responder? Because it is a staff member or teacher who will first come face to face with the killer. The first tenet of Real Protection is that it must be close at hand. When Mr. Deranged waltzes into the class room with his 9 mm or machete, he needs to be stopped quickly and completely. When seconds count, the police or SRO are only minutes away. 911 is too late.
Now consider the three phases of time involved in an SRO or armed guard responding to an attack. These are Notification, Travel, and Close and Engage.
The Notification Phase
The Notification phase is the time between the beginning of the attack and when the SRO gets the message that a shooter is shooting. Typically the first gunshots are not recognized by the staff as gunfire. Someone shooting a gun on school property is such a foreign idea, people who hear gunfire usually think that some prankster has set off firecrackers. "Mable, take a look in the hallway and see what is going on. Sounds like the forth of July out there." Within 20 to 30 seconds, something will cause the hearers to believe it is gunfire, perhaps a call from a terrified teacher who has locked herself and kids in the classroom, perhaps an eyewitness who runs to the office and yells "There is a man in Mrs. Preston's kindergarten shooting a gun." Someone will call 911 and use the PA system or a radio to notify the SRO. Note that if the SRO can hear the gunshot, he will move to the Travel Phase more quickly. He is the one person on campus who probably can tell the difference between fireworks and gunfire. However, given the size of most schools, and intervening walls, rooms, and corridors, chances are he will not hear the shots. Let's assume he is inside the wood shop doing some anti-bullying work with some boys, and does not know of the shooting until called on his radio. So we will say this this notification phase takes 30 seconds.
The Travel Phase
The SRO gets the word and begins moving toward the shooter's position, assuming the emergency call told him where the shooter is. Some of our school campuses are quite large, sprawled out with lots of open air and walkways; others are huge, multi-storied buildings. Using the measuring tools provided by Google Earth, it is easy to see that the SRO could be 300 to 1000 feet from the place where a shooter starts shooting. We will assume 400 just to avoid the extremely long response times that might occur in some cases. So our SRO begins running to the scene of the shooting. If he is a young healthy officer he may be able to run at a steady clip of 20 feet per second, but if he is an older man with some weight on his bones, he may only be able to sustain 10 feet per second. Let's assume he is young and fit and runs at 20 feet per second. He can cover the distance in 400/20 = 20 seconds.
Whoa! No one runs full speed into a room or hallway where shots are being fired. So lets assume he runs fast for 15 seconds and then enters the third phase of his response.
Close and Engage
He slows down and tries to gather information from fleeing students and staff. "Did you see the shooter? How many are there? Can you tell me exactly where the guy with the gun is? What is he wearing? What kind of weapon does he have?" You can see how important these questions are. He could lose his life if he gets bad information at this point, so he closes on the shooter cautiously.
Now he has to decide whether or not to actually engage the bad guy in a shootout. Being an SRO does not require that you die trying to save others; he has two children, a wife, and a life of his own to live, so doing something stupid like charging into a classroom to discover there are two shooters inside is not a choice he will want to make. If those fleeing say there are more than one shooter, then he will stop, set up a perimeter, and call for backup. This is the prudent and reasonable thing to do. This is the Columbine scenario, where the policeman on site confronted, at some distance, the two killers, each holding a rifle. He was out-gunned and did what he could do. Our guard must be cautious, because if the perpetrator has a rifle, the bad guy could shoot him hundreds of feet away. So, just to save more lives, let's assume one shooter, and that the closure and engage takes 20 seconds.
The total time from Notification to Engagement in our example is 65 seconds. This is probably too short a time, but it will still make our point.
With a modern firearm, the killer can easily shoot one shot per second or faster, but for our purposes let's say he aims carefully for three seconds between shots (he is relishing the killing). Do the math. At least 20 people will be shot before the SRO arrives to save the day. For the teacher and kids in the classroom the killer has selected, that is not called protection, that is called a massacre, that is a bloodletting, that is death, fear and pain on a massive scale. And remember, it could have taken the officer longer to get there.
Consider also that these deranged killers are not stupid. They know the SRO is there, and will probably shoot him first so that they can have free range time throughout the school.
So now you can see why an SRO or armed guard cannot provide Real Protection to the students.
This is why the teachers and staff must be armed, to provide a lightning-fast response the second the killer begins shooting. The teachers and staff are the ones who will know who is doing the shooting, because they can see him doing it. They don't have to ask any questions, they just have to have the tools and training to stop him quickly.
Part of their training will be to work as a team, converging on the shooter. The idea is to overwhelm him and quickly put an end to his killing.
The Teachers and School Staff are the First Responders to any attack in a school classroom or hallway. If they are not armed, they will not be able to protect the children from a killer.