Hire armed retired cops for school clerical roles? District 15 pursuing plan.

Palatine Township Elementary District 15 Superintendent Scott Thompson will pursue a plan to use armed retired police officers in schools serving younger children in what he said would be an effort to boost building security.

District 15 school board members endorsed Thompson's proposal at a meeting Wednesday night. The retired cops would be support employees stationed in the front office of elementary buildings answering telephones, collecting students' lunch money and performing other duties, but able to put their law-enforcement experience to use if needed.

“I think it's also important for everybody to know that we're not doing this because we had an issue or a situation,” District 15 board President Lisa Szczupaj said. “It's not responding to something. It's being proactive, essentially, to elevate the security.”

Thompson said District 15 intends to hire the officers as office positions open. He said armed active-duty police will continue as school resource officers in junior high buildings.

Under the plan, the retired cops would receive $20 an hour, along with medical and dental benefits, Thompson said after Wednesday's session.

“As I evaluated all the ways we can spend dollars to make our schools safer, this was a no-brainer,” Thompson said. “It seems like someone that's trained, that's had years of experience, is able to pick up on things that I'm not able to pick up on.”

Two District 15 support employees spoke against the idea of hiring the retired officers during public comment time.

“Guns do not belong in elementary schools, especially when you say that these people will be clericals and secretaries,” said Rosella Bartoli. “They'll be typing. They'll be copying. They'll be taking lunch orders from children. They'll be dealing with ill children. How are they doing to be on point, seeing what‘s going on and be ready to act?”

Anita Jamnik said that while everyone needs to be aware of their surroundings due to the risk of violence, guns don't belong in elementary buildings.

“Our office staff have a multitude of responsibilities and care very deeply for the children in their charge,” Jamnik said. “The chance for accidental discharge of a firearm in a school, in my opinion, is far too high a risk and outweighs any benefits of having that gun in the building.”

Thompson said police in the towns served by District 15 support the idea of armed retired officers in the elementary schools. He told board members that retired cops are allowed to carry weapons in schools under federal law.

Leaders of the Educational Support Personnel Association union at District 15 must review the proposal for the retired officers before any may be hired, officials said.

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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