Local educators denounced the National Rifle Assn.'s  assertion Friday that schools nationwide employ armed guards on their campuses as a deterrent to future mass shooting like what happened in Newtown, Conn.

In a news conference Friday, Wayne LaPierre, executive vice president of the NRA, said schools should follow the lead of courthouses, banks, airports and sports stadiums by using armed guards to protect students.

But local educators on Friday denounced LaPierre’s suggestion and emphasized that an honest discussion on mental health would be more efficient.

Glendale Unified Supt. Dick Sheehan said the cost and implementation of guards “very unrealistic.”

“One of my concerns is the discussion about all the cuts that have been made on the mental health funding,” he said. “We’re trying to solve an issue without discussing the real issue of mental health in the United States.”

The “taboo” topic becomes even more difficult to discuss whenever it relates to youth, he said.

Burbank Teachers Assn. President Lori Adams said the cost of officers would come from already strained budgets and only present a “false sense of security.”

“If you could put [SWAT officers] around the school, people would find a way in. It already happens in the military,” she said, adding that any intruder’s first target would likely be the armed guard.

The greater issue, she said, is the lack of health care funding and resources for addressing mental health needs.

“We need to address the needs of our people and make sure they don’t get guns in their hands in the first place,” she said.

Glendale Teachers Assn. President Tami Carlson, though, said she would not be opposed to having armed guards at every school.

“I think there’s no problem with having an actual armed police officer on campus,” she said. 

But one improvement could come by changing locks on classroom doors. Many of the locks, she said, are located on the outside of the doors, forcing teachers to walk outside whenever schools exercise lockdowns.

“Teachers have been complaining about it for a long time,” she said.

-- Kelly Corrigan, Times Community News

Follow Kelly Corrigan on Twitter: @kellymcorrigan