Lo­cal gov­ern­ments wrestling with idea of arm­ing teach­ers.

Still no an­swers for mak­ing schools safer after 2018 tragedy

The Washington Times Daily - - FRONT PAGE - BY DAN BOY­LAN This ar­ti­cle is based in part on wire ser­vice re­ports.

Nearly a year after a shoot­ing mas­sacre at a Florida high school, state and lo­cal gov­ern­ments across the coun­try are still wrestling over the idea of arm­ing teach­ers to pro­tect stu­dents.

This week a school board in Penn­syl­va­nia’s coal min­ing re­gion post­poned im­ple­ment­ing a pol­icy al­low­ing its teach­ers to be the first in the state to carry con­cealed, dis­trict-is­sued guns, pend­ing a court chal­lenge on the pol­icy’s le­gal­ity.

Mean­while, Ken­tucky law­mak­ers have es­sen­tially nixed the idea, in­tro­duc­ing leg­is­la­tion this month for more armed re­source of­fi­cers, not armed teach­ers, at schools. A state se­na­tor said “there was no strong ap­petite” for arm­ing teach­ers among the work­ing group that drafted the school safety bill.

The var­ied pol­icy de­ci­sions re­flect the di­ver­gent na­tional at­ti­tudes on the topic since Pres­i­dent Trump sug­gested arm­ing teach­ers in the af­ter­math of the Valen­tine’s Day mas­sacre at Mar­jory Stone­man Dou­glas High School in Park­land, Florida. A teenage gun­man fa­tally shot 17 stu­dents and teach­ers and wounded 17 oth­ers.

While ac­tivism by Park­land stu­dents urg­ing tighter gun laws ini­tially drew at­ten­tion, pro­gun ac­tivists have been just as vig­i­lant de­fend­ing the Sec­ond Amend­ment.

Ed­u­ca­tors, in­clud­ing the Amer­i­can Fed­er­a­tion of Teach­ers and Na­tional Ed­u­ca­tion As­so­ci­a­tion, have ar­gued that arm­ing teach­ers is a bad idea be­cause they will lack the proper train­ing to be ef­fec­tive.

Cur­rently, 28 states al­low teach­ers and cer­tain school staffers to carry firearms, ac­cord­ing to the con­ser­va­tive non­profit Crime Pre­ven­tion Re­search Cen­ter. Re­stric­tions and train­ing reg­u­la­tions vary among the ju­ris­dic­tions.

In Penn­syl­va­nia, of­fi­cials on Ta­maqua Area School Dis­trict board voted to post­pone its armed teach­ers pol­icy un­til a court rules on a law­suit filed by teach­ers and par­ents chal­leng­ing the plan. The plain­tiffs claim the pol­icy vi­o­lates state law and en­dan­gers the com­mu­nity.

“A teacher’s role is to teach,” ar­gued Holly Koscak, whose daugh­ter is a high school sopho­more. “We should not be putting those ex­tra roles on a teacher when it’s out of their scope.”

The Ta­maqua Area School Dis­trict serves more than 2,100 stu­dents.

In Ken­tucky, law­mak­ers are weigh­ing school safety leg­is­la­tion nearly a year after two stu­dents were fa­tally shot at a ru­ral high school in the state. The shoot­ing at Marshall County High School in western Ken­tucky pre­ceded the Park­land mas­sacre by about three weeks.

The leg­is­la­tion calls for hir­ing a state school se­cu­rity mar­shal to bol­ster over­sight of school safety ef­forts by lo­cal school dis­tricts, The As­so­ci­ated Press re­ported. The mea­sure also sets a state goal of putting more school re­source of­fi­cers and men­tal health pro­fes­sion­als in schools as de­ter­rents to school vi­o­lence as soon as fund­ing be­comes avail­able.

Since the shoot­ing, the Marshall County school dis­trict has added metal de­tec­tors, school re­source of­fi­cers and men­tal health coun­selors. It also has banned back­packs at mid­dle school and high schools.

Such ac­tions were in­cluded as sug­ges­tions last month in the fi­nal re­port of the Fed­eral Com­mis­sion on School Safety, which Mr. Trump con­vened after Park­land and was led by Ed­u­ca­tion Sec­re­tary Betsy DeVos. Other sug­ges­tions in­cluded tak­ing guns away from dan­ger­ous peo­ple and re­vok­ing Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion rules that were crit­i­cized for eas­ing dis­ci­pline of mi­nor­ity stu­dents.

But on the is­sue of arm­ing teach­ers, the re­port was de­cid­edly flex­i­ble. Mrs. DeVos con­cluded that there is no “one size fits all” so­lu­tion to stop­ping school shoot­ings and that the ques­tion of arm­ing teach­ers and other em­ploy­ees gen­er­ally should be left to states and schools to de­cide.

“Lo­cal prob­lems need lo­cal so­lu­tions,” she said.

While schools in Park­land have yet to al­low teach­ers to arm them­selves, 13 of Florida’s 67 school dis­tricts do al­low armed teach­ers, mostly in ru­ral parts of the state.

Last month, a Park­land com­mis­sion in­ves­ti­gat­ing the mas­sacre rec­om­mended that teach­ers and staff be al­lowed to carry firearms. The panel con­cluded that one or two po­lice of­fi­cers or armed guards at a school were not enough.

AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Last year, 17 stu­dents and fac­ulty were killed in a shoot­ing at Mar­jory Stone­man Dou­glas High School in Park­land, Florida. State and lo­cal gov­ern­ments are still de­bat­ing how best to pro­tect stu­dents from harm. Many are push­ing for poli­cies that would arm teach­ers.

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