District’s Decision To Arm Teachers Draws Backlash

TAMAQUA, Pa. (AP) — A Pennsylvania school board has become the first in the state to pass a policy allowing teachers and other employees to carry firearms.

The Tamaqua Area School District passed the policy in a unanimous vote last month, receiving pushback from both parents and members of the teachers’ union.

The policy allows staffers to carry handguns in holsters on their bodies. The staff members would be required to complete firearms training and lethal weapons training.

In a separate vote, the board passed a policy allowing a $2,000 yearly stipend and $250,000 insurance to employees who sign up.

School Board President Larry Witting said he hopes to sign up 20 to 30 staff members for training and rotate them so about 12 people are armed at one time.

“We will have, in essence, a Tamaqua School District police force,” Witting said.

Frank Wenzel, head of the teachers’ union, said the majority of teachers are against the policy.

“We do not feel that it is our responsibility to hold a gun and take this under our additional duties as teachers,” he said.

Parent Karen Tharp said she believes there are “hundreds of things that can go wrong.”

The Pennsylvania State Education Association opposes arming teachers, and a spokesman for the organization told the Philadelphia Inquirer that it is conducting a legal review of Tamaqua’s policy.

Tamaqua serves about 2,500 students.

The school board will hold a special meeting to hear alternative proposals Nov. 7.