Guam – Discussions continue about whether to arm Guam’s School Resource Officers. Speaker Judi Won Pat held a roundtable discussion on the SRO Program at her office today.
School Resource Officers have been patrolling Guam’s high school campuses for almost a year now but up until this point the probation officers from the Guam judiciary have been unarmed. The decision to arm the officers has been left to the Guam Judiciary and Guam Education Board.
“The SROs are probation officers and as you know the probation officers as well as our Martials at the Judiciary are armed law enforcement officers,” Safe and Drug Free Schools Project Manager Joleen Respicio of the Guam Judiciary told PNC. “of course the position would be that in their role as a law enforcement officer they would be armed however our position of having them armed in the schools is completely left to the Guam Education Board and the Guam Legislature to make that decision as the chief justice has said.”
This issue was debated publicly prior to the SROs being posted at Guam’s five public high schools last year and while the debate ended with the officers being unarmed recent events have caused the issue to be revised.
At today’s roundtable meeting Speaker Won Pat says testimony showed no sense of urgency in arming the officers.
“Now I know the board will be at least among themselves are not saying that this is something that they want to do the Superintendent I think has also supported that idea” Won Pat said following today’s discussion.
Department of Education Superintendent Jon Fernandez is currently off island but submitted written testimony which according to Won Pat suggests that other factors should be taken into consideration before the topic of armed officers is.
“At least from what we’ve seen in the mainland with all of these cases is there’s always a mental issue here and should we then be looking at that before we start putting these machines in the schools,” Won Pat said of Fernandez’s stance.
Some of the public debate has included criticism of the training the SROs receive as probation officers but Respico defends their abilities saying they receive specified training in firearms and in working in an educational setting.
The SRO program is funded by a federal grant to provide bullying prevention training and reduce violence on school campuses.