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Two New Jersey school districts install armed police guards

(Reuters) - At least two New Jersey school districts this week put armed police guards at the entrance to public schools in the wake of the Connecticut elementary school massacre.

In Marlboro Township in central New Jersey's Monmouth County armed guards were on duty on Wednesday to check every child, teacher and visitor as they arrived and left any of the district's eight schools, which serve children in pre-Kindergarten through eighth grade.

Further north, in Passaic County, the Totowa School District on Wednesday also started using armed police officers in its two elementary schools, according to local media reports.

Marlboro Schools Superintendent David Abbott said the reaction from the community has been mixed, but he is defending the decision.

"At least during a 90-day period, temporarily, as we sit down and look - and there's a good debate in the community about what it is that we want to do and not do - but while we're doing that, let's make sure that our schools are as safe and secure as we possibly can, given what's happened," Abbott told Reuters.

Twenty children and six staff members died when a gunman opened fire at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut. The attack on December 14 was the second deadliest school shooting in U.S. history.

As surviving pupils returned to classes on January 3 in a new building in a neighboring town, the motives of the killer remain a mystery.

In Arizona, Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio plans on Monday to start deploying a volunteer posse to Phoenix-area schools as part of a new program to boost security for students following the Connecticut shootings.

Uniformed posse members, some of whom will be armed, will be stationed daily outside a majority of the roughly 50 elementary, middle and high schools located under Arpaio's jurisdiction, his office said. The posse will be present throughout the school day.

The 3,000-member posse has been a fixture at shopping malls during the holiday season since 1993 in an attempt provide a visible law enforcement presence for visitors.

Posse members receive special training and about 500 are qualified to carry firearms, Arpaio's office said.

(Reporting by Barbara Goldberg; Additional reporting by David Schwartz in Phoenix; Editing by Tim Gaynor, Richard Chang and Leslie Adler)

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