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LI educators condemn NRA school security idea

A police SWAT team walks out of the

A police SWAT team walks out of the rectory of St. Rose of Lima Roman Catholic Church while responding to a bomb threat in Newtown, Conn. Worshipers hurriedly left the church Sunday, not far from where a gunman opened fire Friday inside Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown. (Dec. 16, 2012) Credit: AP

Bizarre, out of touch and insane. That's how Long Island educators described the National Rifle Association's call for "armed security" at every school to curb gun violence.

The gun lobbying group's announcement came a week after a 20-year-old man shot his way into a Newtown, Conn., elementary school, killing 20 first-graders and six adults.

Wayne LaPierre, the NRA's chief executive, told reporters Friday that "we need to have every single school in America immediately deploy a protection plan proven to work -- and by that I mean armed security."

Henry Grishman, head of the Jericho district, was stunned at the statement, calling it "outrageous," "out of touch" and "out of step" with his schools' mission. He said, too, that a guard with a pistol would be no match for a madman with a semiautomatic.

"It would only wind up increasing the number of deaths from gun violence," he said. "A school district is not a place for a firearm in any form."

Arnold Goldstein, superintendent of the North Bellmore schools, said it's "pretty obvious that what we need are fewer guns, not more," and that "the answer isn't to make schools armed fortresses."

Regent Roger Tilles called the NRA's idea "insane," and State Education Commissioner John B. King Jr. called it a distraction from what should be a serious conversation about "common-sense gun control" and mental health issues.

Ed Vasta, head of the teachers union in Manhasset, said he would never consider carrying a firearm at school. "That's not my area of expertise," he said. "I am a teacher by training."

Kishore Kuncham, superintendent of the Freeport district, called the NRA's announcement "the most bizarre and most irresponsible statement I can think of." Schools are like temples of peace, education and wisdom, he said, calling them one of "the most important and sacred symbols of our democracy." They are no place for guns and holsters, he said.

Howard Koenig, interim superintendent of the South Country schools in Patchogue and Bellport, said he wouldn't want a firefight inside any of his buildings, calling the NRA's plan "the dumbest thing I've heard in years."

Some states are considering allowing teachers to bring guns to school. At least one small Texas town, Harrold, already does. Armed guards or officers also work at schools elsewhere in the country. In another Texas city, Grand Prairie, police said they will put officers at all 47 schools next month, according to The Dallas Morning News.

Still, the idea of armed security seems to have no traction on Long Island.

"All someone has to do is make a mistake, and a kid gets hurt," said Richard Nathan, superintendent in the Lindenhurst district.

His school system, in response to the Newtown tragedy, added unarmed security guards at all of its elementary schools.

"Violence begets violence," Nathan said, adding the world the NRA describes sounds like "a primitive society."

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