Officials studying armed guards at Newport-Mesa schools

Armed guards
Students walk to class at Newport Harbor High School, one of the schools in the Newport-Mesa Unified School District.
(Mark Boster / Los Angeles Times)

School officials in coastal Orange County are investigating the cost of hiring armed security guards to potentially patrol grade schools or high schools in the Newport-Mesa Unified School District.

In a 4-3 vote, school board members directed administrators to find out the price tag for armed security at a single elementary school or high school — something that could expand district-wide in neighboring Newport Beach and Costa Mesa.

Trustees emphasized the exploration doesn’t mean they are committed to putting guns in the hands of guards, but the idea was distasteful enough for some board members to vote against even finding out the price.

“I don’t feel that it would be a deterrent if someone is really set on causing harm,” said school board member David Brooks, a retired Costa Mesa police officer.


Brooks questioned what level of training each security guard would have and whether that’s enough to entrust them with children’s safety.

“To take a person off the street that has a clean record and give them a gun, then put them in schools and say we have armed security, well no, we have armed people,” he said.

Newport-Mesa Unified administrators had previously decided not to pursue hiring armed guards at its two high schools in Costa Mesa, instead deferring to the local police department to patrol the schools.

But the school board’s vote last week revives the idea and expands it to examine the cost of placing armed guards at elementary schools as well.


School Board President Karen Yelsey said she hasn’t formed a final opinion but the district has a responsibility to at least explore the option.

“If I felt it would be appropriate security, and we had the right people, I could possibly be in favor,” Yelsey said.

School Board Vice President Martha Fluor voted with the majority Tuesday but said that doesn’t indicate how she’d vote on actually implementing the idea.

“I do not feel comfortable with armed guards on our school sites,” she said. “I’m not real crazy about that concept.”