Community Concerned over District’s Plan to Arm Teachers

TAMAQUA, Pa. -- Concerned parents, teachers, and students came before the Tamaqua Area School Board Wednesday night to show their opposition to a controversial move by the board.

In September, the board adopted a policy that would allow staff to carry guns in school in response to the school shootings happening across the country.

“We recognize that there is a need for protection, but we do not think that arming the staff is the answer to this problem,” said sophomore Paige Pratt.

“Statistics show that adding guns to schools increases the chances of an accidental shooting,” said parent Aimee Dotson.

Calling themselves the Tamaqua Citizens for Safe Schools, these folks were invited by the board's safety and security committee to make their argument against the decision and also offer alternative ideas to increase safety.

“We would like to see that when you come into the building, you would need to show photo ID to get into the building,” said parent Karen Tharp.

“We believe that adding metal detectors and officers who are trained to handle situations like this would be more effective,” said sophomore Madelyn Jones.

The board also had the Ohio-based nonprofit company that provides firearms training to school staff explain its process.

“The FASTER (Faculty Administrator Safety Training & Emergency Response) Saves Lives program, what started as a three-and-a-half day training program is now a three-year-long curriculum,” said Joe Eaton with the Buckeye Firearms Foundation.

While there is strong opposition to having armed school staff, there were some at the meeting who say they support it.

“If they get the training that this gentleman would provide, I would be very upset if they didn't have that ability to defend the kids in this school, some of which might be my grandchildren,” said Ted Bogos.

The superintendent says due to the lengthy training time, staff isn't going to be carrying weapons anytime soon. He says the board approved the policy as a potential security option for the future.

“I think the board is open minded to listing to what the people have to say as possible alternatives,” said Superintendent Raymond Kinder.

No action was taken at the meeting to rescind the firearm policy, but if and when staff members could be carrying guns in the Tamaqua Area School District is still to be determined.

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