Many state, local governments across U.S. debate arming teachers
Nearly a year after a shooting massacre at a Florida high school, state and local governments across the country are still wrestling over the idea of arming teachers to protect students.
This week a school board in Pennsylvania’s coal mining region postponed implementing a policy allowing its teachers to be the first in the state to carry concealed, district-issued guns, pending a court challenge on the policy’s legality.
Meanwhile, Kentucky lawmakers have essentially nixed the idea, introducing legislation this month for more armed resource officers, not armed teachers, at schools. A state senator said “there was no strong appetite” for arming teachers among the working group that drafted the school safety bill.
The varied policy decisions reflect the divergent national attitudes on the topic since President Trump suggested arming teachers in the aftermath of the Valentine’s Day massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. A teenage gunman fatally shot 17 students and teachers and wounded 17 others.
While activism by Parkland students urging tighter gun laws initially drew attention, pro-gun activists have been just as vigilant defending the Second Amendment.
Educators, including the American Federation of Teachers and National Education Association, have argued that arming teachers is a bad idea because they will lack the proper training to be effective.
Currently, 28 states allow teachers and certain school staffers to carry firearms, according to the conservative nonprofit Crime Prevention Research Center. Restrictions and training regulations vary among the jurisdictions.
In Pennsylvania, officials on Tamaqua Area School District board voted to postpone its armed teachers policy until a court rules on a lawsuit filed by teachers and parents challenging the plan. The plaintiffs claim the policy violates state law and endangers the community.
“A teacher’s role is to teach,” argued Holly Koscak, whose daughter is a high school sophomore. “We should not be putting those extra roles on a teacher when it’s out of their scope.”
The Tamaqua Area School District serves more than 2,100 students.
In Kentucky, lawmakers are weighing school safety legislation nearly a year after two students were fatally shot at a rural high school in the state. The shooting at Marshall County High School in western Kentucky preceded the Parkland massacre by about three weeks.
The legislation calls for hiring a state school security marshal to bolster oversight of school safety efforts by local school districts, The Associated Press reported. The measure also sets a state goal of putting more school resource officers and mental health professionals in schools as deterrents to school violence as soon as funding becomes available.
Since the shooting, the Marshall County school district has added metal detectors, school resource officers and mental health counselors. It also has banned backpacks at middle school and high schools.
Such actions were included as suggestions last month in the final report of the Federal Commission on School Safety, which Mr. Trump convened after Parkland and was led by Education Secretary Betsy DeVos. Other suggestions included taking guns away from dangerous people and revoking Obama administration rules that were criticized for easing discipline of minority students.
But on the issue of arming teachers, the report was decidedly flexible. Mrs. DeVos concluded that there is no “one size fits all” solution to stopping school shootings and that the question of arming teachers and other employees generally should be left to states and schools to decide.
“Local problems need local solutions,” she said.
While schools in Parkland have yet to allow teachers to arm themselves, 13 of Florida’s 67 school districts do allow armed teachers, mostly in rural parts of the state.
Last month, a Parkland commission investigating the massacre recommended that teachers and staff be allowed to carry firearms. The panel concluded that one or two police officers or armed guards at a school were not enough.
• This article is based in part on wire service reports.
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