The York City School District's plan to create its own police department stems from a desire to protect children from outside threats -- not to make the enforcement of school rules a police matter.
That's how several district officials characterized the proposal Monday at a school board meeting.
"This was never intended to be an alternative to good classroom management," said Michael Muldrow, the district's head of security.
Muldrow unveiled more details of the plan at the meeting. For example, the district is proposing that its officers will carry Tasers -- what Muldrow called "the elephant in the room."
District officials have said from the beginning that its officers would not carry firearms. Other weapons, however, were not discussed publicly until Monday.
Tasers would be used only as a "last resort" in life-threatening situations, Muldrow said.
He offered several scenarios as examples of times a school police officer might use a Taser. For example, he said, a Taser could be used to subdue a person brandishing a knife in the main office or carrying a gun outside a school building.
"It would be to protect from whatever is on the outside ... not to address students," Muldrow said. "We are talking about serious, life-threatening situations."
He said district officers would also carry pepper spray, which could be used on "combative individuals in crowd settings."
Muldrow said district officials have been listening to the concerns expressed by parents and members of the public.
"Is arrest the new school discipline?" Muldrow said, repeating a concern he's heard from the public. "Absolutely not."
Teachers, administrators and behavioral specialists would still handle disciplinary problems, Muldrow said. District police would be there for security and criminal matters, he said.
Once the department is established, the York County 911 center will dispatch district police to calls on district property, Muldrow said. Expedited response will enhance district security, he added.
Superintendent Eric Holmes said the district has never aimed to create a "police state" in its schools. This is about outside threats, he said.
"One of the things that keeps me up at night ... is the safety of our students and staff," Holmes said. "There's nothing more horrifying than what happened at Sandy Hook."
A York County judge in a recent ruling granted permission for the district to create its own police department. Holmes said recently the school board will need to approve job descriptions and policies before the police department can be formally established.
Several board members expressed support for the proposal Monday.
Glenn Medice said he believes the district's overall goal to improve safety -- and perceptions of safety -- will be served by establishing a police department.
"I'm not the least bit worried about a Taser," he said, adding that officers must be properly trained to use the tool.
Each of the district's officers -- several of whom have served as police officers before -- will be trained to use both pepper spray and Tasers. Each officer will experience the effect of a Taser as a requirement of that training, Muldrow said.
If and when a district police officer uses a Taser in the field, the district will solicit a third-party review of that use from the York City Police Department or the York County district attorney, Muldrow said.
Holmes said district officials want to improve security but also want to avoid creating "a culture of guns."
"We don't need that here around our kids," he said. "What we're about is protecting our kids."