As the second half of the 2022-2023 school year begins, school safety remains among the most important topics to discuss. Some questions parents should consider are: What is your child’s life worth? Who do you want disarming a school shooter — someone with zero training related to that scenario or someone with extensive training? In short, who do you trust to protect your “lamb(s)” in school?

Over America’s history, certain men and women have been the guardians of our great nation — choosing to serve and protect their countrymen against all enemies, foreign and domestic. As a former U.S. Marine, I was fully trained to answer that call when it came, as were all our military service members. Those in law enforcement are prepared to answer the call closer to home.

As a former police officer, along with many of my former brothers and sisters in law enforcement, we trained every year for just about every possible scenario. There was volunteered training and there was “voluntold” training. This training is mandated by the North Carolina Criminal Justice Training and Standards for North Carolina law enforcement officers and ensures these men and women are ready when the call comes.

There is also “specialized training” for those with a specialized position, like a School Resource Officer. The North Carolina Justice Academy, through the North Carolina Department of Justice Training and Standards Division, states that “The School Resource Officer Certificate Program is designed specifically for sworn law enforcement officers assigned as School Resource Officers, who desire to increase their training, experience, and credentials. The courses selected for the program recognize that an SRO is often required to perform traditional patrol responsibilities in addition to their school-related duties.”

This “specialized training” has required core training classes such as School Resource Officer Training (40 hours), School Resource Officer Ethics (Web-based) (32 hours), Advanced SRO Survival (24 hours), Community Oriented Policing (24 hours ). This also includes elective course options, where one will need a total of 280 hours of training. Law enforcement officers who are selected or volunteer for this position are much better equipped to be an SRO. It takes a special kind of person to do that job.

Organizations like the Southern Coalition for Social Justice (SCSJ) are calling to eliminate these SRO positions at schools across the state and to replace them with… counselors. I’m all for counselors helping students during and after a crisis, but they should not act as a barrier of safety and security between a student and an active shooter. I’m certain these counselors are not made of Kevlar. Let’s work to prevent people from becoming victims not add to the body count by involving additional untrained civilians.

But for a second, imagine if this organization got their wish. It would be leading our “lambs to the slaughter.” Adding a “Gun Free Zone” sign on the front door is like saying, “Welcome and come on in school shooter! We won’t return fire; we’ll defend the students by counseling you to cease your carnage and mayhem!”

President of the Crime Prevention Research Center, Dr. John R. Lott, Jr. gives a staggering, yet realistic statistic: “Ninety-Six percent of mass shootings occur in gun-free zones.” Even so, SCSJ states on its website that “Black and Latinx students should have a safe learning environment. But for many students of color, school police do not equate to safety.” If that is the case, then why not place black and brown officers in schools?

Remember the “defund the police” movement? It proved one thing; law enforcement officers are needed. Crime has risen exponentially in those cities that defunded the police. In an online article titled, “FBI Statistics Show a 30% Increase in Murder in 2020. More Evidence That Defunding Police Wasn’t a Good Idea,” written by Jarrett Stepman for the Daily Signal, it states that, “The murder rate rose by nearly 30% in 2020, more than any other time in the last half-century.”

He goes on to add some very important information from Paul Cassell, a law professor at the University of Utah: “Here I think we have anti-police protests surrounding George Floyd’s killing. As a result, police had to be redeployed away from their normal beats and high-crime areas to police the protests. And even extending beyond that, I think what we see has happened is a reduction in policing, particularly the kinds of policing that might be expected to have the most effect on homicides and shooting crimes.”

We only need to look right here at home — the state of North Carolina. In an online article titled, “Defunding Cops Shortchanges Citizens,” author Brandon McGaha, a N.C. staff representative with the Southern States Police Benevolent Association, wrote that Asheville, “the center for the Western North Carolina defunding movement [leading to the city re-allocating $770,000 from the police budget] has weakened officers’ ability and desire to perform their duties. It has resulted in an unprecedented exodus of officers leaving the department.”

Deputy Chief Mike Yelton for the Asheville Police Department commented on the rise in crime, “We’re up! Crime is up nationwide, but particularly in the city of Asheville. For a city our size, we’re not within the scale we should be.”

A particular scene from the movie, A Few Good Men, comes to mind when I think of armchair quarterbacks, like SCSJ, that want to rid our schools of SROs. Actor Jack Nicholson, who played the role of Colonel Nathan R. Jessup, gave this monologue: “Ever put your life into another man’s hands, asked him to put his life in yours? We live in a world that has walls and those walls have to be guarded by men with guns. Who’s going to do it? You? I have a greater responsibility than you can possibly fathom. You have the luxury of not knowing what I know. My existence, while grotesque and incomprehensible to you, saves lives. You want me on that wall! You need me on that wall! We use words like honor, code, and loyalty. We use these words as the backbone of a life spent defending something. You use them as a punchline! Otherwise, I suggest you grab a weapon and stand a post!”

It takes all of us (parents, citizens, law enforcement, teachers, school board members, and school administrators) to keep our “lambs” safe while in school. We should be working together, not causing division. I leave you with the the same questions I asked at the beginning: What is your child’s life worth? And who do you want disarming a school shooter — someone with zero training or someone with extensive training related to that scenario?