Security officers in the Tacoma (Wash.) district are seeking to regain the authority to carry handguns as part of their job.
The Tacoma News Tribune reports before the 2017-18 school year began, school district administrators decided that nine security officers who patrol schools and ground should no longer be armed.
The officers have filed a union grievance to win back the right to be equipped with a gun as they patrol the district.
“None of them are happy about this decision,” says Margaret Englund, the union representative for the patrol officers, who are part of the International Union of Operating Engineers Local 286. “They dress them up looking like police. They put them in a marked patrol car. They put lights and sirens on top of the patrol car, and they take away the biggest item that protects them.
District officials say that if someone has to draw a gun at a school, they want it to be a Tacoma police officer.
“The superintendent felt very strongly that if we have an incident at a school that requires someone to draw a gun, we would be much more comfortable having that be a highly trained Tacoma police officer than anyone else,” Tacoma School District spokesman Dan Voelpel says.
The disarmed School Patrol Officers are district employees; the district' website says those officers "work in partnership with the Tacoma Police Department, providing safety and security support across the district 24/7. They are in constant radio communication with the police department and respond to 911 calls related to our schools."
The school system also has Tacoma Police Department officers assigned to five of the district’s high schools as School Resource Officers, and those officers do carry their weapons.
Superintendent Carla Santorno decided to disarm the school patrol officers’ as the district was reviewing the insurance policy that covers those employees.
Following the decision, the union filed a grievance. If mediation in the coming weeks isn’t successful, the issue will go before a hearing examiner in April, and a ruling would come several weeks later.