Pennsylvania Senate amends bill arming teachers ahead of anticipated final vote

Pennsylvania senators amended a proposal this week to arm school employees.

Senate Bill 383, sponsored by Republican Sen. Don White, 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.

“This is just one more tool to help them — if they see fit — to protect their families,” White told WITF Tuesday.

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, according to White.

“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.

An amendment passed 49-1 Tuesday adds a psychological evaluation — similar to the one municipal police officers must pass — to the list of requirements for teachers who want to carry on school grounds. It also mandates schools draft a “Firearms Access Policy” and share it with local hospitals and law enforcement agencies. The policy would include information such as how many district schools employ armed staff and the names of those employees.

Sen. Sharif Street, a Democrat from Philadelphia, sponsored the amendment as a way to make a “troubling bill less troublesome,” according to PennLive.

“I have great concern that while we want to keep our young people safe,” Street said. “We do not want our actions to cross into the unsafe, even more unsafe. The introduction of firearms in the school is something we all need to take seriously.”

The bill passed the Senate Education Committee in April with bipartisan support. It is anticipated to come up for a final vote on the Senate floor as early as Wednesday.