By ZEINAB NAJM
DEARBORN — A WXYZ Channel 7 school safety town hall provided the opportunity for residents and community members to voice their concerns to a panel of law enforcement, attorneys, elected officials and educators.
U.S. Rep. Debbie Dingell (D-Dearborn), state Rep. Abdullah Hammoud (D-15th District), U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Michigan Matthew Schneider, Wayne County Sheriff Benny Napoleon, Police Chief Ronald Haddad, Dearborn Public Schools Supt. Glenn Mayleko and attorney and gun rights advocate James McSkousty all answered questions from the audience during the town hall April 30 at Fordson High School.
During the hour-long discussion, several topics were addressed by the panel including mental health, possible guns in the classroom, gun violence and control, arming security offices, social services and the option of having metal dedicators in schools.
Dearborn resident Lisa Piers asked about what strategy can be used to get people on opposite sides to come to a censuses and affect the change.
“There are a ton of laws, with regard to firearms that aren’t being enforced,” McSkousty said. “Before we want to talk about passing new gun control laws or changing the existing laws, let’s enforce the laws that are out there. After we have full enforcement of existing laws then we can address if there’s something that needs to be done.”
WXYZ Channel 7 Anchor Carolyn Clifford asked the panel if anyone wanted to weigh in the comments President Donald Trump made about arming teachers in schools with guns.
“Putting a gun in the hands of a teacher without the proper training or extensive training, those of us in law enforcement are potentially going to come into contact with someone in a dangerous situation,” Napoleon said. “When we have a special obligation to protect folks we tend to go through an additional training. You have no idea how someone is going to react when that is not their main responsibility when someone is firing a weapon.
“If you have never a gun fired in public and then you put that inside of a school where you have children and teachers who are not really trained to react to that, maybe there’s one who will react properly, but what about the others who don’t? I think that sets us up for something big or tragic to happen by requiring teachers to carry handguns.”
Fordson student Ibrahim Ahmad asked about having metal decorators in the school and arming the school security guards with limitation to open doors at schools.
“If I were to describe to you a building that had metal dedicators at the entrance and a room where every individual has a gun, odds are you are telling me you think you are walking into a prison,” Hammoud said. “I don’t think that type of environment would foster an atmosphere where our students are there to learn and grow and to nourish their minds where every teacher held a gun and every single day they were forced to walk through a metal dedicator.”
Hammoud also added that mental health and gun safety should be handled with other policies and through a deep discussion between stakeholders.
Dearborn High School Special Education Teaching Assistant Donald Stuckey said he was asked by one of his students if he was safe in school.
“It’s really a multi-level approach, yes, you are safe,” Mayleko said. “Can we for 100 percent guarantee that someone can’t get into the school, no we can’t say that.”
He also said the district has buzzers for guests when they access buildings, making sure doors are locked, practice drills, the relationships the district has built with the community, parents, students and police.
“What’s happened in Dearborn because of the comfort with our resources officers that are in schools, we have student who will come to the staff and report on it right away and I can call the chief and we’re right there.”
Mayleko added that on the gun issue, he only prefers to have Dearborn police officers with guns in the schools because they are highly trained to deal with students.
The DPS Board of Education passed a resolution to have Dearborn police officers as the only armed personal in the district’s buildings, Mayleko said.
To watch the entire town hall, go to www.wxyz.com/news/monday-detroit-2020-town-hall-on-keeping-schools-safe.
(Zeinab Najm can be reached at [email protected].)