State House Sound Bites

Capitol reporter Mary Wilson covers Pennsylvania politics and issues at the Pennsylvania state capitol.

Issue of arming teachers not high on list among state officials

Written by Mary Wilson, Capitol Bureau Chief | Jan 30, 2013 3:55 PM

What has become a flashpoint in the national debate over guns doesn’t appear to be gaining traction in Pennsylvania: arming school teachers to ward off mass shootings.

The same day the state Senate adopted a resolution creating a task force to study how Pennsylvania schools could be better protected in light of the elementary school shooting in Connecticut last month, state Education Secretary Ron Tomalis said state law already provides for arming guards in schools, and about 140 school districts and charter schools have such officers.

But he said arming teachers isn’t on the table right now.

“That’s not one of those areas where right now when we talk through with superintendents and administrators, when we get the feedback with them, that’s not an issue that they’re bringing up with us,” said Tomalis.

Senate President Pro Tempore Joe Scarnati said he, too, would short of advocating for arming school teachers.

“That debate is best had once we define what we can provide,” said Scarnati, who has proposed increasing available grant funding to schools for safety and security enhancements, and allowing them to use it to train armed guards. “But teachers being armed, I haven’t had any conversations with any teachers yet that would like to be armed, and I haven’t had an e-mail from a teacher that would like to be armed.”

The task force to study mass shootings and preventing school violence is supposed to look at a whole host of issues, including mental health procedures, state laws, education to reduce violent crime, and school security policies.

The panel will be made up of roughly 25 public officials and violent crime experts, and its findings will be due by the end of the year.

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