High school students debated the presence of armed campus guards on campus during a mock hearing Wednesday at the Suffolk legislative offices in Hauppauge. Credit: Newsday/John Paraskevas

The hearing Wednesday in Hauppauge focused on a familiar threat and an equally familiar plan to thwart it: The potential for a mass shooting on campus and whether school districts should allow security guards to be armed.

Some at the hearing at the Suffolk County legislative headquarters spoke about students who fear going to class every day because they could get shot. Others said they didn’t think giving guns to guards would be enough to keep students safe.

And still others thought it was refreshing they were asked to speak up at all.

It was high school students, sitting in for Suffolk legislators Wednesday, who held court with the mock public hearing, and also got an early sampling of the back and forth tussle of lawmaking.

The League of Women Voters designed the program as an up-close way for students see how local government works. Some 33 students from six high schools in Suffolk County took part.

For Shannon D’Amato, 17, a senior at Deer Park High School, the mock hearing provided a rare opportunity for the people most at risk of being victims of a school shooting to weigh in on a potential solution.

“I think for the first time us students got to feel like we were involved in what would happen to us and in our own schools,” said D’Amato. “We don’t really get asked our opinion on what’s happening to us.”

Thomas Cabrera, 18, a senior at Elwood-John H. Glenn High School, said when they enter a campus building, school shootings are “in the back of a lot of people’s minds."

“Just to have that extra security blanket," Cabrera said of armed campus security guards, "I think it would make kids feel a little bit safer.”

The mock hearing took place against the backdrop of a real debate in school districts on Long Island and across the country on whether to arm security guards.

Last month, Smithtown voted to arm its guards, joining other districts including Montauk, South Huntington, Tuckahoe and West Babylon.

Those moves have been prompted by a string of school mass shootings across the country in the past two decades. Among the more recent on-campus bloodshed was the May massacre of 19 students and two teachers at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas.

While students at the event Wednesday came down on both sides of the armed guards issue, they also saw nuances.

“I honestly would feel a lot safer if a security guard were to be armed but only if they took the right precautions with it,”  D’Amato said.

Max Stratton, 18, a senior at Harborfields High School, said the addition of armed guards "within a school creates an environment of fear and an environment in which you cannot be guaranteed that safety will be created or that it will have a positive effect on the minds of students.”

During the event, students played roles including presiding officer of the legislature, legislators, county budget director and members of the public giving their opinions.

In interviews before the debate, many students said they backed the mock bill to allow armed security guards and police at schools in Suffolk.

But at the end of the debate, when the mock legislature voted, the bill went down to defeat in a 12-7 vote.

For Isabella Lima, 17, a senior at Huntington High School, armed guards are “such a liability that’s not worth the risk … . Having a relationship with the students where they feel like they can trust the people who are there to protect them is jeopardized by having somebody who has the ability and all of that power” in possessing a gun.

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