PA Senate strengthens training requirements in proposal to arm school employees

The Pennsylvania Senate amended a proposal to arm school employees last month to strengthen training requirements outlined in the bill.

Senate Bill 383 would allow personnel licensed to carry a concealed weapon the authority to do so on school grounds, given the school board permits it and the employee meets certain additional training requirements.

The amendment approved on a vote of 35-15 during the chamber’s May 22 session further defines those requirements to include law enforcement training programs and others “approved” by the Pennsylvania State Police Commissioner “to be of sufficient scope and duration as to provide the participant with basic training in the use and handling of firearms.”

“Time is a critical element when a violent incident occurs in a school,” said Republican Sen. Don White, who co-sponsored SB 383 earlier this year, in a press release last month. “Senate Bill 383 gives trained school personnel the opportunity to serve as first responders.”

Pennsylvania’s 501 school districts spread across more than 2,500 municipalities, two-thirds of which rely on state police coverage. Some rural school districts encompass hundreds of square miles, leading to delayed response times, White said.

“There are thousands of armed teachers and administrators in schools across the country and there has never been an incident where they have shot the wrong person, had their weapons taken by a student, or used a weapon inappropriately,” he said.

Democrats and the state’s largest teacher’s union oppose the measure as dangerous.

“Teachers are not trained law enforcement officers – their job is to educate children and act as role models,” Pennsylvania State Education Association President Jerry Oleksiak said in a press release last month. “This legislation would create more problems for first responders arriving at the scene of an armed confrontation, making it more difficult to immediately distinguish a perpetrator from a school employee.”

The bill awaits a final vote in the Senate, which some speculate could happen this week.

Gov. Tom Wolf has promised to veto the bill should it get to his desk, according to the Pittsburgh City Paper.