St. Columbkille

St. Columbkille Principal Brandi Redburn photographs students in 2018. Redburn said that the school building is secure but that officials want to step up security at the church across the street.

A Catholic school in Papillion will use armed, plainclothes security this year to protect students during school-day Masses.

Off-duty law enforcement officers will be on hand, but inconspicuous, when students celebrate Mass at St. Columbkille Catholic Church.

Most Omaha metro area public school districts already have armed on-duty law enforcement officers, known as school resource officers, assigned to high schools and middle schools. St. Columbkille Catholic School is a K-8 school with a preschool.

The St. Columbkille security program will make use of volunteers who are affiliated with the parish, including parents of children in the school.

An official with the Archdiocese of Omaha said he knows of no other schools or parishes that are considering such a program.

The program, developed by Bellevue Police Lt. Jay Kirwan, is called BADGE, which stands for Brave Armed Defenders Guarding Education.

Principal Brandi Redburn said that although the St. Columbkille school building itself is secure, officials wanted to step up security for student Masses at the church across the street.

Officials at the archdiocese did not object, she said.

“I think they understand the need,” Redburn said. “In the climate and the culture that we’re in right now, unfortunately, it’s an unlikely threat, but it’s a real threat.”

Deacon Tim McNeil, chancellor of the archdiocese, said Archbishop George Lucas “let the school make its own decision based on its own needs and analysis.”

Catholic social teaching allows for “proportional self-defense,” McNeil said.

The social teaching of the Catholic Church does not rule out using force to protect life, as long as the force is not more than is necessary.

“Preserving the common good requires rendering the unjust aggressor unable to inflict harm,” according to the Catechism of the Catholic Church on the Vatican website. “To this end, those holding legitimate authority have the right to repel by armed force aggressors against the civil community entrusted to their charge.”

In the St. Columbkille program, the officers sign a contract with the school that spells out the narrow circumstances under which they may act.

“They only really get involved if a deadly threat is apparent,” said Greg Monico, a Sarpy County sheriff’s lieutenant who is coordinating the program.

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Their responsibility, therefore, is not as broad as a sheriff’s deputy working a football game or movie theater. A uniformed deputy has a responsibility to catch the guy streaking the football field or stealing candy at the theater, he said.

The contract, meantime, holds officers harmless for failing to act, he said.

That’s included in the contract to avoid a situation like in Parkland, Florida, where the deputy is “getting raked over the coals for his failure to act” during a deadly school shooting, Monico said.

Asked about the potential for a gun accidentally discharging, Monico said guns “don’t go off accidentally. It’s usually human error that causes that.”

The officers who volunteer are expected to take the same precautions with their firearm that they take on the job and off duty, he said.

Monico said that as a Catholic law enforcement officer, he’s had to reconcile his faith with his job.

“I think God is OK with you protecting the gift of life He’s given you,” he said.

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joe.dejka@owh.com, 402-444-1077

Joe covers education for The World-Herald, focusing on pre-kindergarten through high school. Phone: 402-444-1077.

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