AP NEWS

Debate Over Arming Tamaqua Area Teachers Erupts On Social Media

November 20, 2018

A debate about arming teachers that has moved from meetings of Tamaqua Area School Board to Schuylkill County Court also has flowed onto social media. People commented for and against the idea, which the board approved Oct. 16 and which teachers filed a lawsuit to block Wednesday. “The simple fact is that when bullets start flying, EVERYONE in the building is going to pray that someone with a firearm stops it from happening. Do you want that firearm five minutes away, or 30 seconds away?” Bradly Stott said on Facebook. Stott, a Tamaqua resident who wears a Marines uniform in his profile photo but is no longer on active duty, said arming trained teachers offers protection for financially strapped school districts at less cost than hiring armed guards. Jessica Harper, who graduated from Tamaqua Area just after the 1999 Columbine High School shootings in Colorado, doesn’t believe teachers need to carry guns. “I feel that an armed guard, such as security officers, retired police, or retired military personnel are better trained for this situation,” she said on Facebook. Harper recommended returning metal detectors to schools and making schools more difficult to enter. “You can hit the buzzer without even saying your name or why you are there and get right into the school buildings,” she said. Jessica Matias said people in Tamaqua, where she now lives, could take a lesson from Bronx, New York, where she went to high school. “A day in my high school will change everyone’s minds and let the teachers carry. Tamaqua has its faults, but I grew up in a school where violence was the norm,” Matias said on Facebook. At Adlai E. Stevenson High School, employees checked bags, students walked through metal detectors and armed guards patrolled halls with teachers who were trained but unarmed. “Even with all that security ... many were stabbed and some shot because of gang violence,” she said. Mike, a Facebook user who asked that his last name be withheld, said the school board at least is being proactive. “Are there no veterans in the Teacher’s Union who would be willing to go through the training? Instead, let’s sue and waste money on lawyers instead of sitting down and discussing things like adults,” Mike said in his post. In the weeks since the board voted, national groups have been mentioned in posts about the policy. U.S. Rep. Brendan Boyle, D-13, Philadelphia, tweeting about Tamaqua’s policy Oct. 30, said he was, “Sickened by the thought of PA teachers carrying firearms in schools. This is not the answer.” Boyle was re-elected Nov. 6. Orange Wave-Vote for Gun Safety (@OrangeWavePA) tweeted Nov. 7 that its volunteers are working with organizations in Tamaqua to keep guns out of schools. Third Summers Brother (@hugetinymistake) tweeted: “The Tamaqua School District was fooled by the Buckeye Firearm [sic] Foundation (a front for those who want to proliferate more and more firearms) into thinking this is a safe and smart idea.” Asked about the tweet, Joe Eaton of Buckeye Firearms Association said he was asked to speak a public meeting in Tamaqua on Nov. 7 about a training program that his association offers to schools where police or other employees are armed. The FASTER Saves Lives program has been given at 250 schools in 15 states. Eaton said Third Summers Brother was “woefully uninformed” about the best response to mass killings. “In active mass killing, every minute you allow the violence to continue results in 5-7 additional dead and wounded so even waiting 2-4 minutes on outside help is too long,” Eaton said by email. Tamaqua’s policy allows teachers and other school employees to carry guns after they have had special training. The teachers said the policy violates state law that limits the use of firearms by public employees. In court, the board has 30 days to respond to the teacher’s lawsuit. Contact the writer: kjackson@standardspeaker.com; 570-501-3587

AP RADIO
Update hourly