We all want our kids to be safe and able to learn in good and safe schools. We know that guns don’t belong in our schools and will not make our kids safer. But some PA school districts have the misguided notion that placing firearms in the hands of school personnel, including teachers, is a good idea.
During the 2017-18 legislative session, a bill that allowed school districts to permit teachers to be armed passed the Senate, but we were able to keep it from moving forward in the House.
This session, debate has focused on defining the roles of school security personnel, and determining whether such personnel should or could be armed. In July of 2019, Governor Tom Wolf signed a law that would provide schools more options regarding hiring school security personnel. While Governor Wolf and the Pennsylvania Department of Education have made it clear that they believe it is unlawful to allow teachers to carry firearms, some schools have expressed interest in authorizing teachers and school personnel with PA concealed carry licenses and (unspecified, undefined) “training” to carry firearms in our schools during the school day. We believe that loopholes in the language of this law (Act 79) could be manipulated by schools to attempt to cross-designate existing teachers and administrators as “security guards” permitted to carry firearms. We will fight this at every step, and we hope the Wolf administration will, as well.
Regardless of the form it takes, whether it’s a direct legislative (or local school board) effort to arm teachers or an indirect effort to manipulate the definitions of security personnel, we will continue to fight against the introduction of guns into our schools. We know that more guns do not make our schools safer and in fact can create a more dangerous environment, especially for students of color and students with disabilities.
With good reason, teachers are against the idea of allowing teachers or school personnel to bring firearms into their schools. The Pennsylvania State Education Association (PSEA), and, on a national level, both the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) and the National Education Association (NEA) have issued strong statements opposing arming teachers.
At least two major PA studies on the issue have rejected the idea of arming teachers or non-security personnel. A 2013 Joint State Government Commission on Violence report “strongly opposed” arming non-law enforcement personnel in schools because “parameters for use of the weapons would only be as good as the person entrusted to carry one.” It also cited concerns about students accessing the firearms, and about teachers being mistaken for suspects during any active shooter situations. Another study from 2014, conducted by the Pennsylvania House Select Committee on School Safety, did not recommend arming general school personnel.
Teachers, students, parents, and many school board officials agree: this is a bad idea and won’t make our schools safer. We must urgently stand up for the safety of our children and for the people who devote their lives to educating our children and keeping them safe during the day. Arming our teachers or any other nebulous category of “school personnel” is not the answer to preventing violence in our schools.
What Can You Do?
Tell your school board members to keep guns out of our classrooms. If your school districting is raising the idea of armed school personnel in schools, we can help. Email our Guns in Schools Hotline and we will be in touch to help you organize and fight this dangerous proposal.