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DOE rejects armed guards in District 24

Community Education Council members discuss placing armed security guards in city schools. Photo by Steve Mosco
TimesLedger Newspapers

City officials said they do not intend to recognize a Community Education Council resolution seeking to place armed, retired police officers in schools across the city.

The resolution passed unanimously, and to applause, at the CEC 24 meeting at IS 73 in Maspeth Tuesday, with council President Nick Comaianni stressing that an armed guard could have made a difference in the Newtown, Conn., school shooting last month.

“The principal lunged at the shooter, but was unable to stop him,” said Comaianni during the meeting at The Frank Sansivieri School, at 70-02 54th Ave. “If an armed guard was stationed at the school, you might not have any casualties. That is something we need to consider.”

But a city Department of Education spokesman dismissed the resolution, saying city schools already work closely with the NYPD and that the real answer to curbing gun violence and protecting schoolchildren is through education and preventing illegal guns on the street.

The spokesman also said CEC districts can only make recommendations and cannot put resolutions into practice without DOE approval.

“A safe learning environment for our students is one of our top priorities,” said city Schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott in a statement. “As the largest school district in the country, we know what works and putting an armed guard in every school building is not the answer. Our schools are safer today than they’ve been in more than a decade thanks to our collaboration with the NYPD, reforms to our discipline code to promote safety, anti-bullying and peer mediation programs, and work to remove illegal guns from the street.”

The CEC’s resolution also called for the DOE to install buzzer-entry and front door video surveillance as well as panic buttons linked directly to NYPD dispatchers.

Comaianni said the armed guards would carry concealed weapons and would not interfere with day-to-day security at the schools. He also said the guards would not be paid a full police officer’s salary with benefits, so the city could easily afford the resolution.

“Retired police officers already have a full pension, so the salary would be unaffordable,” he said. “We’re not talking about a large amount of money impacting the city school system.”

The resolution was in response to the Dec. 14 school shooting in Newtown, in which 20 6- to 7-year-old children and six adult staff members were slain by 20-year-old Adam Lanza, who killed his mother before taking three of her firearms and driving to the school.

The next resolution to pass, one that the DOE did not immediately deny, was the motion to rename PS 113 in honor of popular Principal Anthony J. Pranzo, who died from pancreatic cancer last year.

The council said they want the school at 78-23 87th St., currently named after War of 1812 U.S. Naval officer Isaac Chauncy, named after Pranzo because the late principal turned the school into a beacon of academic excellence.

The school’s current principal, Alejandro Megias, said the community is still trying to recover from losing Pranzo.

“He served for 23 years, and during that time he turned that building into a family made up of teachers, parents and children,” he said. “The community is still healing from this tragic loss and renaming it in honor of him would be an important step in that process.”

Reach reporter Steve Mosco by e-mail at smosco@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4546.

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