District 15 postponing plan to hire retired cops as armed clerical workers

An idea to have armed retired police officers working front-office jobs to boost security at grade schools has been placed on hold at Palatine Township Elementary District 15.

Following strong community feedback for and against the proposal since it was announced last month, District 15 Superintendent Scott Thompson said the school board directed him to delay his proposal so more discussion and investigation can occur.

Thompson said district officials need to determine if a majority of residents would support the hiring of retired officers to serve as armed clerical workers in elementary school buildings.

"I still think it's a terrific idea," Thompson said after Wednesday night's school board meeting, "and I hope that we can continue to talk about it and see if we can come to some kind of compromise."

Thompson said he was thinking of ways to improve safety at 15 elementary schools and an early childhood center before hitting on the idea of having the retired cops in the front-desk jobs, ready to use their law enforcement skills if needed.

Besides providing armed security, the retired cops would answer telephones, collect students' lunch money and handle other matters. School board members at a Nov. 15 meeting originally agreed Thompson should pursue the idea.

At Wednesday night's school board session, members of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America and others spoke against Thompson's idea.

Troy Stinson, a veteran and former cop, asked the board to further research Thompson's idea.

"Ideological bias should not dictate how to best safeguard and secure our most important and valuable residents," Stinson said.

But Laura Davis, a League of Women Voters of the Palatine Area member, said the organization "strongly disagrees" with the proposal.

"We do not believe a further proliferation of guns is the answer to possible gun violence in schools," Davis said.

Thompson said the retired officers would be in civilian clothing and have their weapons concealed, likely in ankle holsters. District 15 already has armed police school resource officers in all four of its junior high buildings through agreements with the Palatine and Rolling Meadows police departments.

District officials said limits on police resources prevent them from having school officers in the elementary buildings. Under Thompson's plan, the retired cops would receive about $20 an hour, along with medical and dental benefits.

Federal law allows retired officers to be armed in grade schools if they are qualified through their former department or the state.

District 15 has about 12,800 students and covers all or part of Palatine, Rolling Meadows, Hoffman Estates, Inverness, South Barrington, Arlington Heights and Schaumburg.

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