Derby Explores Possible National Guard Presence At High School

Derby Public Schools are exploring whether to have Connecticut National Guard troops stationed within the high school.

The nascent idea could see the military members open an office in the school, where they could be an extra set of eyes on school security cams, Derby Public Schools Superintendent Matthew Conway suggested.

But one thing they won’t be doing, according to a letter from the Guard — acting as armed security personnel in Derby High School.

“ . . . Governor Malloy’s staff indicated that they will not support armed military personnel in schools,” Major General Thaddeus J. Martin, adjutant general and commander of the Connecticut National Guard, said in a letter to the Derby schools superintendent.

Conway had also suggested the Guard could conduct recruitment activities within the school, something that already happens on occasion during the academic year.

“(The Connecticut National Guard) might have individuals in offices today throughout our state in a recruitment capacity, for example, who come into our schools annually as part of the (recruitment effort),” Conway said. “Is there an opportunity where the offices might be located in a school building where they can provide an additional set of eyes for the school?”

Leaders from the Connecticut National Guard are open to meeting with city school officials to hear first-hand about what Conway is envisioning.

However, the letter from Major General Martin also notes that Gov. Malloy has been briefed on the matter and that he pointed out school security is subject to local rule.

“It is the position of the Office of the Governor that the presence of armed security guards in schools is a local decision and as such should be supported with local resources,” Martin wrote.

In the letter, the Connecticut National Guard also suggested Conway reach out to Derby Mayor Rich Dziekan to arrange a meeting.

The National Guard idea was first suggested to Conway by an acquaintance.

It was mentioned as an idea in its “infancy” stage during a school forum on safety last month.

Right now the intent is to “open a dialogue” to determine whether the idea is feasible, Conway said.

Another mass murder at a Florida high school Feb. 14 has caused a national debate — again — over school safety, gun control, and issues related to mental health.

After the Sandy Hook mass murder of children in 2012, U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-California, proposed a bill allowing National Guard troops to help schools.

Last month a state lawmaker in Georgia made a similar pitch.

Jim Gildea, chairman of the Derby Board of Education, said he’s willing to discuss the idea. The board already has a school safety subcommittee looking at a number of ways to bolster security in the school.

“I’m sure (the National Guard) will be a topic of discussion,” he said.

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