NORTH ADAMS - The North Adams School Committee voted Tuesday night to accept member John Hockridge's position statement rejecting the National Rifle Association's call for armed security personnel in schools.
Hockridge, who is also the Massachusetts Association of School Committees (MASC) Division VI chairman, first presented the statement at the committee's Jan. 8 meeting.
"I don't believe having more guns and more armed guards in school is the best strategy for making schools safer, but in fact would do just the opposite," Hockridge said.
The statement, which rejects the NRA's Dec. 21 statement that armed security in schools is the "most effective strategy for protecting our children" and encourages state and federal officials to adopt stricter gun control laws, has become the basis for the MASC "Model School Committee Position Statement on Gun Safety." The model statement was sent out to school committees across the state for consideration earlier in January.
Hockridge said the most effective strategies include what the city has already done: Examining building security, having a community police officer on site serving as first responder, having an emergency plan in place, and having a direct communication protocol to emergency service providers.
Vice Chairwoman Heather Boulger said she would not support the statement.
"I don't think that it's our role to be a forum for a special-issues group," she said. The committee's energy, she said, should be spent on improving school safety with emergency plans and facility upgrades, and in addition, addressing issues like mental health and bullying.
Member Mary Lou Accetta expressed concern over the term "armed security personnel," explaining there's a distinction between that and a trained police officer.
"But the distinction is not clear in this language," she said.
Mayor Richard Alcombright, who serves as chairman, said the NRA's call for "armed security personnel" is what led him to reject the its proposal in the first place.
"There's a lot of people who are armed security personnel that you wouldn't want protecting the children in our schools," he said.
The final vote was 4-2, with members David Lamarre, Mark Moulton, Lawrence Taft and Hockridge in favor, and Accetta and Boulger against.
With the policy approved, Hockridge said it would be sent to local legislators urging them to support gun safety.
In other business, Superintendent James Montepare updated the committee on the security of entry points in the city's schools. Montepare and Director of Facilities James Neville have explored upgrades to each school, including placing shatter-proof glass in all entryways, installing safety "crash bars" on selected doors to the outside, and installing buzzer systems that will allow office staff to control who accesses main entrances. Montepare estimated implementing these changes at the four schools would cost between $7,500 and $10,000.