Anchor Bay schools votes to hire retired police, military veterans as armed security

Posted at 10:41 PM, Aug 31, 2022
and last updated 2022-09-01 13:03:48-04

IRA TOWNSHIP, Mich. (WXYZ) — The Anchor Bay School District is hiring a private security firm to help make their schools safer.

School board members voted 5 to 1 to approve the proposal, which included bringing in five-armed security guards.

The plan is to rotate the arm guards across the district so that every school has coverage.

Superintendent Phil Jankowski says the Anchor Bay School District currently has three school resource officers, but they have been struggling to fill the five remaining positions.

He calls this move an extra layer of protection for student and staff.

The vote was tabled last week so the district could gage parent and staff opinions.

"I think it's necessary," said Stephanie Richards, who has a child in an eighth grader in the district.

Richards was one of only a few parents who attended the special board meeting.

She respects that district leaders are taking action ahead of her son's first day of school on Tuesday.

"In the event that something did happen, when you compare Oxford with Uvalde, the number of deaths is reduced when you have somebody there," Richards said.

Board members say they have plans to add roughly 700 door barricades to school buildings along with other updates.

But parents wanted to know: what will the district do in the meantime?

"I share those concerns and we need to do something and what can we do to provide coverage in the most cost-effective manner," Jankowski said.

Jankowski says they landed on a firm called Fortis. The company employs retired police officers and military veterans.

"They've worked with juveniles, they've dealt with school issues and they have the training experience and background to handle a critical incident should it occur," said Brian Bastianelli, the chief executive officer of Fortis.

Basitanelli says his firm already works with Huron Valley Schools. School security is a newer venture. Bastianelli says prior to working with Huron Valley, they mostly did corporate security.

At Anchor Bay, they'd start with five officers and eventually expand to eight.

Those officers would wear regular clothes and carry guns in a holster.

He says he understands guns in schools can make parents nervous, but unarmed personnel can't stop what he calls "a person with intent to kill."

"The best thing they are going to do is what other teachers are going to do, and that's run, hide, and fight," Bastianelli said. "Try to protect the children the best they can and they can facilitate, but they are not stopping that situation.

"If anything, they may become the first casualty," he added.

Jankowski says just as school resource officers do, these armed guards will develop relationships and a rapport with students.

"It's somebody that is going to be integrated and kids will be comfortable with them being around," he said.

The only opposition was from board member Jon DeRoo.

He says nearby Chesterfield police could handle the job. He thinks the decision was rushed.

"I am all about waiting a couple weeks, doing our due diligence and making sure we are putting the right people in the district to protect our kids," DeRoo said.

He was the only board member to vote no on the proposal.

The superintendent asserts that local departments do not have the capacity or personnel to provide security to Anchor Bay Schools.

"Having somebody on site who could possibly stop it sooner than our police department is great. Our nearest sheriff is 20 minutes at minimum," said Stephanie Rieden, a parent in the Anchor Bay School District.