On Wednesday, the Pennsylvania Senate Education Committee approved Senate Bill 383, which lets school districts allow trained teachers and other staff to carry guns on school property. The bill passed on a 9-3 vote. Now, the bill goes to the full Senate for final approval.
Republican Sen. Don White sponsored the bill and said it will only allow employees trained in the safe handling of firearms to carry guns on school property.
“Teachers have come to me and said I want the opportunity to defend my children and to defend my life and give me something more powerful than an eraser to throw at these people,” White said.
Those who oppose Senate Bill 383 include the Pennsylvania State Education Association, the Education Law Center, CeaseFirePA and Moms Demand Action.
“I don’t think most people, especially a teacher who has too many kids in their class, who has to deal with kids, who loves those kids is the person we should be putting an additional burden on,” executive director of CeaseFirePa Shira Goodman said.
Jerry Oleksiak, president of the Pennsylvania State Education Association, believes the bill will not make schools safer.
“PSEA is not opposed to the use of appropriately trained and armed school safety personnel in schools, like the school safety officers that some districts employ,” Oleksiak said. “What our association does oppose is arming teachers, education support professionals, and other school staff. PSEA is for strategies that keep students safe. This bill doesn’t keep students safe. That’s why we oppose it.”
Senate Bill 383 simply gives local school boards the power to allow trained staff to do so.
“This bill would allow for conversations to take place at the local school district level where I think those conversations ought to take place,” Republican Sen. Ryan Aument said. “We’re essentially reaffirming local control.”
Republican Sen. John DiSanto and Northern Lebanon School District Superintendent Don Bell agree the school boards should have the authority to make those decisions.
“It’s a tool that we should provide to school districts to figure out at the local level,” DiSanto said. “I just want to say it’s a sad commentary on our society in general that we have to be discussing this but I believe it’s very important.”