A reader writes:
I am a graduate of Sidwell Friends, in the same class as Chelsea Clinton (1997), so I know what I’m talking about on the issue of Presidential protection on campus. To respond to your misinformed readers, a few points:
St. Albans and Sidwell have never had armed guards on campus. At Sidwell, this claim is particularly noxious, as it is a Quaker school. There was a great deal of uproar within the Sidwell community as to how to address the security needs of the President and his daughter against the school’s core value of nonviolence. An accommodation was made, but for the most part, Agents did not accompany Chelsea to classes, and were not visible on campus. A detail sat in an SUV in the parking lot, another monitored what happened in the building in an office with CCTV. While I am sure they were armed, it was not obvious, so the claim of “armed guards” is ridiculous.
Indeed, the greatest controversy arose in preparations for the final meeting for worship for graduating seniors and their families. President Clinton was in attendance, but the Secret Service agreed to keep all weapons outside the room in which the meeting was held.
Sidwell’s own “Special Police Officers” are simply security guards that you’d find at any school. They are not armed with guns, nor do they have access to guns (whether this is because of DC’s restrictive gun laws, the school’s Quaker values or a recognition that arming people increases the likelihood of negative outcomes, I’m unsure). There are eleven of them because they operate 24 hours a day, seven days a week. I’d expect that no more than four including supervisors would be on duty at any given time, and that’s to protect a campus of 5th through 12th graders, approximately 800 students.
This issue is so fraught with emotion, even moreso now that the NRA has brought the President’s young girls into the discussion. So please, please verify the claims of your readers when they’re adding fuel to the fire with claims that Sidwell runs a special ops unit.