I read several posts on a homeland security group on LinkedIn relating to soldiers with automatic weapons being assigned to schools in Israel to protect staff and students from terrorists.
This is a very pervasive myth probably stems from conference presenters who have heard and repeated this inaccurate description from others. I have no idea who started this myth, but it is still alive and well. A few years ago, I was keynoting a state homeland security conference when a police lieutenant made the statement in his presentation that there was a full platoon of combat soldiers assigned to every school in Israel. I have since heard numerous variants of this incorrect assertion. About two years ago, a very good friend of mine who I respect immensely said something similar during a keynote. I correctly figured that he would want to be corrected if he was saying something that was not correct as he is a man of integrity. I wanted to make sure that nothing had changed since I went to Israel as part of an exchange program with the Israel Police in the late 1990’s.
I called Dr. Robert Friedmann who is the Executive Director of the Georgia International Law Enforcement Exchange Program – GILEE at Georgia State University and he assured me that nothing had changed since my visit and that there were no schools in Israel that had any soldiers assigned to them.
As we had seen and been briefed during our visit, off-duty soldiers must be hired to provide security during field trips and they do typically carry a rifle when performing these duties. As with schools in the United States, many schools in Israel have security officers and some of them are armed as is the case here. In addition, some school administrators do carry a handgun or keep a gun in their office. Dr. Friedmann also informed me that parents sometimes contract with private bus companies that utilize buses with armor plating in the territories where the risk of terrorist attack is higher. Some of these buses also have armed security personnel.
As one purpose of the GILEE program is to provide accurate and helpful information between participating countries (which include China, Austria and Rumania as well as the U.S. and Israel) Dr. Friedmann asked that I try to correct the inaccurate information when I had the opportunity. My distinguished colleague was both grateful and gracious when I contacted him. Unfortunately, the rumor is still being passed around by other well-intentioned people. Please pass this information on if you encounter the same information. Those who question it can feel free to contact us or Dr. Friedmann for verification.