Teachers can’t sue, Tamaqua Area argues
They don’t have right, it says in response to union lawsuit over gun policy.
The Tamaqua Area School District filed preliminary objections in court this week to a lawsuit waged by its teachers’ union against the school’s new policy allowing staff to carry guns in school.
Policy 705 passed unanimously in September, but it drew ire from the Tamaqua Area Education Association, which filed a lawsuit in Schuylkill County Court in November, claiming the measure is a violation of the Pennsylvania School Code.
The school district, in its filing, questions this claim and argues that the union does not have the legal standing to sue, nor has it established the district committed a “manifest wrong.”
The Pennsylvania School Code allows trained law enforcement to carry firearms in school. The teachers’ lawsuit alleges that Tamaqua’s Policy 705, adopted Sept. 18, ignores “state law and allows school employees who do not have state-required training or experience to carry and use firearms.”
The new policy requires staff who volunteer to participate to receive training as outlined by Act 235, the Lethal Weapons Training Act.
But the Education Association says school resource officers receive extra training that goes beyond Act 235 — such as active shooter training — that is not outlined in the district’s gun policy.
The district’s filing claims this extra training — under the Municipal Police Educational and Training Law, or Act 120 — does not apply to the school district since it is not a municipality or higher education institution.
Despite this distinction, Chris Lilienthal, assistant director of communications with the Pennsylvania State Education Association, said the extra training is what parents and teachers have wanted.
“One big question we have is why the school board is fighting teachers and parents on this,” Lilienthal stated in response to the preliminary objections.
Primarily, the district is seeking to prove the union does not have legal standing to file a lawsuit.
The district’s first objection is to the union’s ability to sue, claiming the union does not have standing because it cannot prove any of its members “are suffering immediate or threatened injury,” according to the filing.
Lilienthal said the PSEA believes teachers could be put in harm’s way if staff are armed without proper training.
“A policy to arm teachers in school will definitely have an impact on working conditions,” Lilienthal said Friday.
The objection filing also calls on the union to prove there is an “actual justifiable controversy.”
Questioning the legal sufficiency of the teachers’ lawsuit, the district writes that there is no specific state statute either allowing or preventing a measure like Policy 705, arguing further that recent state statutes include broad enough language to allow such a policy by a public school.
Pennsylvania law does not expressly allow concealed carry in public schools, but it offers a defense for a weapon “used in conjunction with a lawful supervised school activity or course or is possessed for other lawful purpose.”
Tamaqua is the first district in the state to pass a policy allowing armed school staff as a way to defend schools against shooters.
kd[email protected] Twitter @kayla_dwyer17 610-820-6554
A crowds listens to presentations during a meeting on Tamaqua Area School District’s policy that would authorize teachers and staff to carry guns in school. The policy, which passed in September, is the subject of a lawsuit.