EAST HAMPTON, Conn. (WTNH) – The East Hampton Board of Education voted to add armed security guards to each of its schools on Monday night, just a few weeks before the new school year begins.

It’s a decision several other schools in the state have already made. The school board met to discuss the decision at 6 p.m.

The board voted unanimously to add armed security guards to three of its schools; Memorial Elementary, Center Elementary, and East Hampton Middle School.

East Hampton High School has had an armed security officer since 2019.

Parents made passionate pleas on both sides of the issue before the vote was taken. 

“You don’t know if a shooter is coming after your kids and saw there was an armed security guard inside and picked another school,” said Michael Buck, a Board of Education member. 

Matt Engelhardt, a parent of children who attend East Hampton schools, argued that many studies and research suggests armed security guards do not make students and staff feel safer. 

“If we really want to make our schools safe, let’s hire more interventionists and counselors to help identify those rag flags and provide services to students in need,” he said. 

Board member Nancy Kohler said the school district has hired school psychologists this year and will be implementing mental health clinics soon. She says their vote today is not the end of the conversation about school safety.

“I don’t think that armed security is the solution here. I don’t think it is the answer but I do think it can be part of a multi-layered solution,” said Kohler. 

Several said mental health services should be bolstered in addition to adding armed security guards.

According to state law: armed security officers in schools have to be retired police officers or state troopers.

Security guards in East Hampton would also have concealed weapons.

The plan will cost the town $150,000 total for the three additional officers.

The board voted the money will not come out of the school budget. The board will be asking for more funding from the town.