Bethlehem Press

Sunday, September 24, 2017
illustration by ed courrier illustration by ed courrier

Administrators against armed staff

Tuesday, August 15, 2017 by Nate Jastrzemski njastrzemski@tnonline.com in Local News

The states senate last month passed bill 383, which allows school district staff and faculty who possess concealed-carry permits to carry firearms on school property.

Educators across the state have spoken against the bill.

Bethlehem Area School District Superintendent Dr.Joseph Roy said he’d be uncomfortable with guns in the hands of anyone other than trained professionals. He told Lehigh Valley Live anything else raises the risk that some innocent person is going to get hurt,

Roy said, “I absolutely would not want my second grade and kindergarten daughters attending a school where teachers are walking around with guns. In addition to creating a safety risk, it would also negatively alter teacher-student relationships.”

BASD Board President Mike Faccinetto told The Press in an email this bill will give districts the ability to create policies, and, “This board will NOT, under any circumstance, entertain a discussion around arming our staff.”

Faccinetto said unequivically guns have no place in schools, and BASD already partners with the city police department for the presence of School Resource Officers in the high schools and middle schools. He said these officers have his utmost faith and respect and serve a far greater purpose than being armed.

He said, “[SROs] build relationships with the students and work to become part of not only the school community, but also the neighborhoods. These bonds can reduce crime and make the job of law enforcement easier. Officers begin to be seen as vested partners and not someone to avoid on the street.”

The answer is not more guns in schools, Faccinetto said, echoing educators throughoutthe state, but more initiatives and eduction around what is the root cause of student issues. “Over the past seven years the BASD has partnered with and received training from the International Institute for Restorative Practices to change the culture in our high schools and work with students to understand how their actions affect their peers. This well-respected model of social discipline has gone a long way to reduce the serious infractions that occur in our schools.”

Faccinetto said the bill is a distraction from the real issues schools face.

He also questioned how, if the bill becomes law, districts in favor of it will actually handle the training and expenses, and worried that it will become yet another unfunded mandate.

State Senators Lisa Boscola, D-Northampton/Lehigh, and Pat Browne, R-Lehigh, voted against the bill, while Senator Mario Scavello, R-Northampton/Monroe voted in favor of it.

Governor Tom Wolf said he will veto the bill.