Local school districts have policies in place to keep guns off school grounds, but a proposal passed by the Senate on Wednesday, with a vote of 28-22, would allow guns to be permitted on school property.
Senate Bill 383 would enable school employees who are licensed to carry firearms to possess weapons on school premises to provide “for protection and defense of pupils.”
However, the decision to establish such a policy would be in the hands of the school boards that oversee the school districts.
But many local educators aren’t in favor of a school code that would support the legislation.
I don’t think teachers should carry guns — I think it’s a bad idea. … I think the more guns you put in peoples’ hands in school could potentially cause a problem. If we’re going with weapons, we’ll put it in the hands of trained police officers, but not school educators or administrators
Gregg Paladina, P-O Area superintendent
“We haven’t really talked about it, but basically our administration had a look at each other and just rolled their eyes,” Philipsburg-Osceola Area Superintendent Gregg Paladina said. “I don’t think teachers should carry guns — I think it’s a bad idea. … I think the more guns you put in peoples’ hands in school could potentially cause a problem. If we’re going with weapons, we’ll put it in the hands of trained police officers, but not school educators or administrators.”
A provision of the bill would require school staff who plan to be armed to go through a similar type of psychological evaluation to that of law enforcement officials.
The bill still needs to be approved by the House of Representatives.
The CDT spoke with representatives from public school districts in Centre and Clearfield counties, including Bellefonte and Penns Valley area school districts, who said no formal talks have been made by board members or staff regarding the legislation. If the bill becomes a law, they said board members in partnership with administrators at each district would act in the best interest of the school district and community.
It’s not a subject that has come up (and) while I think individual school districts should be allowed to make their own decisions about this, it doesn't strike me as a particularly good idea
David Hutchinson, State College Area board member
“It’s not a subject that has come up (and) while I think individual school districts should be allowed to make their own decisions about this, it doesn’t strike me as a particularly good idea,” State College Area school board member David Hutchinson said.
School board President Amber Concepcion said in a statement that if the time does come, she anticipates that the current district policy would remain.
State College Area board policy 218 prohibits the possession of firearms on school property, with the exception of weapons “under the control of law enforcement personnel.”
Like other districts that serve Centre County residents, State College Area has safety measures already in place.
Superintendent Bob O’Donnell said that includes working with local police. Secondary schools have a student resource officer on hand, and police visit elementary schools daily.
“Our teachers and support staff are highly trained to educate; officers are highly trained to protect,” O’Donnell said. “Law enforcement personnel are best suited to carry firearms in schools. We believe having that daily police presence in our schools is an effective strategy to help keep our school community safe.”