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January 17, 2013

Armed guards at Peru’s schools?

Superintendent trying to raise funds to hire five officers.

PERU — Peru City Schools Superintendent Chuck Brimbury says he wants to hire five officers armed with guns to safeguard the district against an attack like the recent shooting in Newton, Conn., that left 26 people dead.

But he said a tight budget is forcing him to look at funding sources outside of the school budget to pay for the proposal.

“Due to recent events, there’s nobody in the U.S. who isn’t concerned about school safety,” Brimbury said. “Peru schools has taken the approach that we will do anything we possibly can to make sure what happened in Connecticut won’t happen to us. We must be proactive.”

Brimbury proposed hiring five armed officers to stand guard at the main entrance of each of the schools in the district. He estimated it would cost around $120,000 to pay for the officers.

But that poses a problem, Brimbury said, noting Peru schools recently received some of the largest budget cuts of all the districts in the state.

He said the district is unable to foot the bill for the officers without negatively affecting education at the schools.

“But these are obstacles, not solutions,” he said. “I refuse to accept because we have budget issues at our schools that we can’t do everything humanly possible to make sure our students our safe.”

On Tuesday, Brimbury approached the Miami County Council to request funding to help pay for the proposal. He said he’s also talked to Peru Mayor Jim Walker, County Sheriff Tim Miller, Peru Rotary Club, legislators, businesses, local patrons and “anyone who would listen” to drum up money and support.

“My thought is there’s no better use of tax dollars than to make sure our kids are okay,” Brimbury told council members Tuesday.

He said the first priority is employing officers from 7:15 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. during the school year at each school, and then looking into having guards at all major school events that draw large crowds.

Currently, all doors at the five schools are locked, and visitors must get buzzed into the main entrances after stating their name and reason for entering.

Brimbury said hiring armed officers can’t guarantee gun violence will never happen at the schools, but added he would “do everything in my power to make sure it’s not going to happen here.”

“It’s a shame that this is the society we’re living in, but this is what we have to do,” he said.

Brimbury will make an official proposal at next month’s school board meeting.

Carson Gerber is a Kokomo Tribune reporter. He may be reached by phone at 765-854-6739, or by email at carson.gerber@kokomotribune.com.

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