Board to vote on arming police in Pittsburgh schools

November 10, 2018

School board members will vote Wednesday on whether to arm police in Pittsburgh Public Schools, and some have already come out against the idea.

The board began mulling the policy change in early October, with school police Chief George Brown telling board members that his officers need guns to do their jobs.

Some board members said ahead of the hearing they will vote against the change.

School Director Sala Udin of the Hill District said armed police officers in schools would create a dangerous situation.

“Too many things can go wrong,” he said. “Somebody can get shot.

He said he would vote against the proposal.

“I’m opposed to guns on the officers in school,” Udin said. “If a situation occurs where a police officer is needed (Pittsburgh police) have a record of very quick response and so I think that’s sufficient for public schools.”

The discussion stemmed from a request to explore the policy change made by the Pittsburgh Federation of Teachers in 2015, Safety Committee Chair Terry Kennedy said. Pittsburgh Public Schools police officers are represented by the union.

Board member Moria Kaleida said she, too, will vote against arming the school’s police force. She said the security program in place now is working - without any risk of a student being shot in school.

“Guns don’t belong in schools no matter who has possession of them,” said Kaleida, of Beechview. “I think it sends the wrong message to our kids. It doesn’t create a safe environment. They come to school to feel safe.”

Reach via email, board member Veronica Edwards said she is opposed to guns in schools. Board memberTerry Kennedy said she would reserve comment for the meeting.

Board members Cynthia Falls, Regina Holly, Kevin Carter, Lynda Wrenn and Sylvia Wilson could not be reached for comment.

About 60 people attended a public hearing on the matter held Monday.

“It is the duty of our public schools to educate, not incarcerate,” parent Natika Proctor said in a press release from the Education Rights Network, which opposes the issue. “I will not stand by while my child’s school invests in criminalizing and policing the student body.”

Pittsburgh school police officers are sworn officers and have received firearms training, Brown said at a meeting earlier this month. He’s concerned about threats from the outside coming into school buildings and told the board that though weapons are typically not found inside school buildings, they have been recovered from areas surrounding schools.

“If there’s a situation that goes down where there could be a very dangerous situation with an individual with a firearm, then the school police actually becomes a liability for city officers, especially if we’re working outside events,” he said at the time.

Ruth Howze, a parent organizer with the Education Rights Network, said the organization wants students to be safe but that guns are not the answer.

“There is no evidence that armed officers inside the school buildings increase school safety,” she said. “School should be a sanctuary, not a battlefield.”

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