SOUTH KINGSTOWN – A local man and his wife recently formed an organization advocating for greater protection and security in South Kingstown’s elementary and middle schools.
Richard Nuttall, a South Kingstown resident, formed FEDUP, which stands for Fortified Essential Devoted Undercover Protection. Through FEDUP, Nuttall is advocating for the placement of armed, undercover, retired local and state police officers in schools.
“Countless districts throughout the U.S. are placing armed guards at elementary and middle schools,” Nuttall said in an e-mail last week. “Many are utilizing retired local and state police, family men who live in the community and retired young...many still actively working details.”
Nuttall cited an example of a Pennsylvania school district, which got a court order in the wake of the Dec. 14 Newtown, Conn., shooting to station armed retired state troopers at each of its 14 elementary and middle schools beginning Dec. 17.
“The fact is that we also have the ability to place armed undercover, retired local and state police officers at our elementary and middle schools in South Kingstown, R.I. [and] in all South County schools for that matter,” Nuttall wrote.
Nuttall said that he has made Vincent Vespia, chief of the South Kingstown Police Department, aware of his concerns.
Vespia said in an e-mail Wednesday that Nuttall informed him of the group’s formation and its efforts through a Dec. 20 e-mail.
“I have had no prior contact with this group in advance of their formation and I reserve comment until such time as I understand the details of the proposal,” Vespia said. “There certainly are major issues that need to be vetted.”
According to Vespia, Nuttall is seeking support for his proposal to be placed on an upcoming school committee agenda.
“In the meantime, this department participates in the Crisis Response Committee along with school officials to discuss and plan to implement the best practices for school safety,” Vespia said. “The police department has increased its presence in and around the schools and certainly the school resource officer will remain within the school.”
Nuttall also said he spoke with state Rep. Teresa Tanzi following last week’s school committee meeting.
“He and I had engaged in a conversation about whether or not more guns are the answer to this problem that’s coming up more and more,” Tanzi said by phone Wednesday, referring to her discussion with Nuttall.
Tanzi isn’t convinced that this will solve the problem, especially since tragic shootings do not take place solely at schools.
“He said he wants an officer stationed at the front of each door of each school,” Tanzi said of Nuttall’s request. “If [a gunman] knows you’re going to be at front door, they’re going to go in through the back. It’s not a cure all. I don’t think more guns is necessarily the answer to the problem.”
Tanzi cited the National Rifle Association’s call for armed guards in every school in the United States at a Dec. 21 press conference.
“Before Congress reconvenes, before we engage in any lengthy debate over legislation, regulation or anything else, as soon as our kids return to school after the holiday break, we need to have every single school in America immediately deploy a protection program proven to work - and by that I mean armed security,” NRA President Wayne LaPierre said at the press conference.
Tanzi said that while she will make an effort in the upcoming legislative session to ban large magazine assault rifles, she still believes a more “holistic” approach needs to be taken to combat the problem. She mentioned improved background checks and mental health screening processes as one potential step to help reduce such tragic events, which occur not only at schools, but also at shopping malls, in parking lots and other often frequented locations.
“We need to really look at all of the options to keep not only our school safe, but people in general safe,” Tanzi said. “These massacres don’t just happen at schools but many different places. We need to look at this holistically and try to prevent them from happening.”