Par­ents sue over Penn­syl­va­nia district’s pol­icy to arm teach­ers

Chicago Sun-Times (Sunday) - - NATION/WORLD - BY MICHAEL RUBINKAM

TA­MAQUA, Pa. — Par­ents are go­ing to court to block a Penn­syl­va­nia school district from al­low­ing teach­ers to carry guns in school, the lat­est flash­point in a de­bate play­ing out in many states over whether it’s wise to arm ed­u­ca­tors to pro­tect stu­dents from mass shoot­ers.

The district in Ta­maqua, a coal-min­ing re­gion about 90 miles (145 kilo­me­ters) from Philadel­phia, serves more than 2,100 stu­dents in three schools and is be­lieved to be the first school sys­tem in Penn­syl­va­nia to let teach­ers carry weapons.

Ta­maqua school board mem­bers “en­dan­gered their com­mu­nity” when they ap­proved a “man­i­festly il­le­gal” pol­icy to give weapons to teach­ers and other school em­ploy­ees, ac­cord­ing to a law­suit filed by three par­ents and a grand­par­ent.

“A teacher’s role is to teach,” Holly Koscak, one of the plain­tiffs, said Fri­day at a news con­fer­ence. “We should not be putting those ex­tra roles on a teacher when it’s out of their scope.” She said her daugh­ter, a sopho­more, is “very anx­ious” about hav­ing armed teach­ers in school.

The teach­ers union had al­ready filed suit to over­turn the pol­icy.

Teach­ers are al­lowed to carry weapons in sev­eral states, in­clud­ing Texas, Mis­souri and Ohio, and a num­ber of other states are con­sid­er­ing sim­i­lar mea­sures in the wake of the Park­land, Florida, school mas­sacre last Fe­bru­ary.

In Florida, the panel in­ves­ti­gat­ing the mas­sacre at Marjory Stoneman Dou­glas High School rec­om­mended that teach­ers who vol­un­teer and un­dergo ex­ten­sive back­ground checks and train­ing be al­lowed to carry con­cealed guns on cam­pus. The state teach­ers union and PTA op­pose it.

In Ta­maqua, the firearms pol­icy ap­proved in Septem­ber says that teach­ers and other em­ploy­ees can vol­un­teer to carry con­cealed, district-is­sued guns af­ter train­ing. The pol­icy also es­tab­lishes guide­lines for the use of force.

“The ra­tio­nale for the pol­icy is to pre­vent the apoca­lypse,” school board mem­ber Ni­cholas Boyle said. “When we have a shooter in the build­ing, how are we go­ing to stop that shooter from killing more and more and more peo­ple? We have to have an armed pres­ence there.”

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