GREAT FALLS - Cascade County Sheriff Jesse Slaughter outlined his plan for armed guards at public schools on Thursday.
During a press conference with several school superintendents in attendance, Slaughter laid out the plan which involves hiring and training armed "special service officers" to be placed in schools.
The officers would be paid a stipend of $80 to $100 per day.
“I’ve said for a long time that it’s long overdue that we start protecting our children and our teachers in our schools like we protect our money in our banks,” he said.
Armed guards would ensure the safety of teachers and students in the event of an active shooter situation, Slaughter said, and act as a deterrent to anyone who plans to commit violence in schools.
“The best security plan we could possibly have is a plan that makes it so the incident never occurs,” he said.
“We need a person who is practical, safe, and can deliver a use of force per the law and per the Constitution effectively to protect our children," Slaughter said.
The plan was met with enthusiasm by some.
“I think it’s a good idea to have people in the schools," said Sun River Valley Superintendant Dave Marzolf. "They’re there to protect the students and the teachers.”
But not everyone at the announcement was in favor of the plan.
Cascade County Commissioner Don Ryan believes it should be up to the schools and the voters on how to keep their schools safe, and that a vote for the upcoming public safety levy does not necessarily mean a vote for Slaughter’s plan.
“I don’t want anybody voting against this mill levy because of misinformation," Ryan said. "The public will decide if that’s money well spent, and that’s where I stand today, is the public will decide if we can do this or not. And we will make decisions after the money is available.”
Ultimately the goal is to keep students safe, Ryan said, and that’s common ground for everyone involved.
“The sheriff has an idea," he said. "It needs to be well fleshed out and taken a look at, and if that’s what the people want then I think the commission would support it.”