Does the Sidwell Friends School Have Armed Guards?

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by Sharon Rondeau

The Sidwell Friends School is an exclusive institution founded by Quakers and attended by many children of presidents and Washington, DC executives

(Feb. 1, 2013) — It is well-known that the Obamas send their daughters to the prestigious and expensive Sidwell Friends School, located on two campuses in Bethesda, MD and Washington, DC.  The tuition for elementary school children is $33,268 annually, with middle and high school children’s parents paying an additional $1,000 a year.

Following the tragic events at Sandy Hook Elementary School on December 14, Obama aggressively advocated for stricter gun control measures and issued 23 “executive actions” at a press conference on January 16, flanked by children who had written him letters asking that firearms be further restricted.  Obama’s recommendations do not appear to contemplate that criminals might obtain firearms outside of any law or regulation already in existence or which might be passed in the future.

On page 6 of Obama’s recommendations, it states:

Law enforcement should never be put in the position of unknowingly returning a gun to an individual who is prohibited from having it.  Currently, when law enforcement must return firearms seized as part of an investigation, they do not have the ability to conduct a full background check on the owner.  The Administration will propose regulations to ensure that law enforcement has access to the database needed for complete background checks.

From 2009 to at least late 2010, under “Fast & Furious,” the U.S. Justice Department under Obama and Eric Holder knowingly transferred firearms to Mexican druglords and criminals which killed a U.S. Border Patrol agent, Brian Terry, exactly two years before the Sandy Hook atrocity.  At least 200 Mexican citizens were killed as a result of the gun transfers, including 16 children.

Many believe that Obama intends to confiscate all Americans’ firearms as Adolf Hitler did during the German Third Reich.

On December 24, published an article which reported that the Sidwell Friends School employs “11 armed guards” for security, pointing out that while Obama rejected the idea of placing armed guards in every school in the country, his own children are protected in that manner while they attend school, irrespective of Secret Service protection.  Breitbart differentiated between Secret Service protection and that of armed school security guards.

MSN also reported that Sidwell employs armed guards.

A link from that article to a story from the day before cites an advertisement posted by Sidwell for a “night shift police officer.”  After following the link to its source last month, The Post & Email found that it led to the Sidwell Friends website and the job posting cited in the article.  Now, however, the same link leads to what appears to be a list of training opportunities offered at a fee by a group called the VMT Academy.  The same posting appears as a entry and indicates that the training advertised involves firearms use.

The position to which Breitbart apparently referred is still linked from a message left on a Snopes comment forum. Breitbart had reported the ad posted on November 28, while it is actually dated November 16.  Who changed the link in the December 23 Breitbart story?

The Sidwell Friends School has a security department with 11 employees and one current job opening.  An opening for a Special Police Officer had been posted on August 12, 2012, and various openings for academic positions have been posted for positions beginning in August.

On January 18, 2013, a story appeared in The Washington Post which was widely disseminated over the internet refuting the Breitbart report that Sidwell Friends employs armed guards.  The article quoted Associate Head Ellis Turner as having said, “Sidwell Friends security officers do not carry guns.”

Based on that reported response, The Washington Post criticized the National Rifle Association (NRA) for producing an advertisement which mentioned Obama’s daughters having armed protection while at school as being inaccurate.

Obama said he was “skeptical” of the idea of armed guards in America’s schools in an interview with NBC anchor David Gregory, whose children also attend Sidwell Friends.  Writer Glenn Kessler of The Post reported:

But what about the claim that Sidwell Friends has 11 armed guards, which some Web sites have depicted with images of armed police with binoculars?

This is based on the fact that the online directory for Sidwell Friends lists 11 people as working in the Security Department. Five are listed as “special police officer,” while two are listed as “on call special police officer,” which presumably means they do not work full-time. The directory also lists two weekend shift supervisors, one security officer and the chief of security.

Under the District of Columbia General Order 308.7, a special police officer is a private commissioned police officer with arrest powers in the area that he or she protects. They may also be authorized to bear firearms — but it is not required. Security officers, by contrast, cannot carry firearms and in effect are watchmen. So five to seven security personnel in theory could be licensed to carry firearms.

But we spoke to parents who said they had never seen a guard on campus with a weapon. And Ellis Turner, associate head of Sidwell Friends, told us emphatically: “Sidwell Friends security officers do not carry guns.” (Note: this includes those listed as special police officers.)

Kessler also states that the 11 security officers are divided between the two school campuses such that “it appears that the 11 ‘armed guards’ is really just one or two unarmed guards per school at a time.”  However, that speculation did not appear to have been confirmed with Turner.  Why not?

The District of Columbia had forbidden a civilian to carry a weapon until 2008, when the U.S. Supreme Court declared in the Heller case that a person has the right to possess a firearm for self-defense by virtue of the Second Amendment.  The district has a very high crime rate.

Special Police Officer applicants seeking government employment must prove they are U.S. citizens and be approved by the Government of Washington, DC.  Security officers working at public schools in the District of Columbia must be licensed by the Metropolitan Police Department.

The 1993 ordinance to which Kessler refers has a section covering the carrying of weapons in Washington, DC.  Section F reads:

F. Weapons

1.  Unless otherwise approved by the Chief of Police, special police officers shall carry a .38 caliber revolver with a 4″ barrel.  Authorization to possess shotguns may be given with additional firearms training required.

Was Turner incorrect when he allegedly told Kessler that the security guards at Sidwell Friends were not armed?  Kessler awarded “four Pinocchios” to the NRA’s ad which claimed that Obama was “an elitist hypocrite” for being “skeptical” about placing armed guards in schools.  During the Gregory interview, Obama said that some schools will choose armed guards as part of a total security plan.  Many already utilize them.

An article linked to Kessler’s written by Philip Rucker, also of The Washington Post, incorrectly stated of the NRA advertisement:

The National Rifle Association released a new video on its Web site Tuesday calling President Obama an “elitist hypocrite” for having Secret Service protection of his daughters at school but saying he was “skeptical” about installing armed guards in all schools.

Rather, the advertisement flashes on the screen:

Are the President’s kids more important than yours?  Then why is he skeptical about putting armed security in our schools when his kids are protected by armed guards at their school.

The ad does not mention Secret Service protection at all, but rather, the presence of armed school guards.  Secret Service agents are known to carry firearms to protect their charges.

How did Rucker conclude that the NRA was discussing Secret Service protection in its ad?  Is his lead paragraph misleading?

According to Rule 6-A1103 of DC Code 4-114 (1981), a firearm may be carried on the premises to which a Special Police Officer is assigned but must be secured on those premises at the end of the work day.  However, an officer may pursue a suspected criminal who flees the property where the officer works in order to apprehend him or her.

A commenter and apparent resident of Washington, DC stated that he contacted the Metropolitan Police Department for clarification on Special Police Officers:

I just called around the DC Government and 311 tells me that yes, security guards who carry guns are considered Special Police Officers (SPO’s).

When The Post & Email contacted a member of the Sidwell Friends School security department and Turner by email on January 24, we received no response.  We therefore contacted the Security department by phone on January 31 and were referred to Turner, who was identified as the “school spokesman.”  We left a message with Turner identifying ourselves as media and requesting a statement as to whether or not Sidwell Friends security personnel are armed or have access to weapons.  We received no response by email or telephone as of this writing.

If Glenn Kessler can obtain a response from Ellis Turner, why not The Post & Email?

Is it reasonable to think that a Special Police Officer would not carry a gun in the event of a crime being committed on the property to which he is assigned? How else would the children be protected in the event of an intruder?

The Weekly Standard describes the security officers at Sidwell Friends School as “presumably armed” and the sch0ol itself as “high security.”

At the top of page 8 of Obama’s executive actions on gun violence, it is recommended:

  • Provide effective training for active shooter situations for 14,000 law enforcement officers, first responders, and school officials:  One of the best ways to minimize the loss of life in a mass shooting is to make sure law enforcement, first responders, school officials, and others are prepared to respond to an active shooter.  The Administration will immediately expand access to federal training, and federal agencies will ensure that protocols for responding to active shooter situations are consistent.  And Congress should provide an additional $14 million to help train 14,000 more police officers and other public and private personnel to respond to active shooter situations.

Now who is the hypocrite?




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