The state Senate backed a bill this week that would give school districts what they need — more flexibility in making their own decisions about the best ways to strengthen school security and protect the safety of their students.
The bill, passed by a vote of 32-17, would give school districts and private schools more options to hire trained and certified armed security guards. It would allow schools to hire security guards employed by private firms, as long as they meet certification standards. It would also expand the definition of a school resource officer to include a county sheriff or deputy sheriff.
The bill was introduced by state Sen. Mike Regan, who formerly served as a U.S. Marshal and Deputy Inspector General. In a memo attached to his bill, Regan notes the importance of providing schools with multiple options pertaining to school safety and security. The bill passed this week would supplement Act 44 of 2018, legislation that created the “Safe2Say” school reporting system which encourages students, teachers and staff to report concerns, formed the School Safety and Security Committee and created a new school safety and security grant program.
“When drafting Act 44, we understood that school districts, under current practice, could decide whether school security guards should be armed or unarmed while on school property.” Regan, R-Cumberland, York counties, wrote the memo to his colleagues. “A recent memorandum from the Department of Education is interpreting provisions relating to school safety guards as not having the authority to carry a firearm. In no way was this legislation designed to prevent school security guards with the proper certifications from carrying a firearm.”
Democrats who opposed the bill say allowing more guns into school won’t solve a problem that can be helped by more money for school counselors and more restrictions on gun purchases.
Those are important considerations that also have a place in the overall discussion about school security and safety.
In a state with 500 school districts serving student populations ranging from 200 to 140,000 students attending 3,287 schools, a one-size-fits-all approach will not provide the highest level of security. Local school district administrators, working with elected members of their school boards and local law enforcement professionals, are in the best positions to develop security plans and place personnel in the most effective positions to protect the safety of their students.
State legislation that provides more options for local decisions, like the Senate bill passed Tuesday with “yes” votes from Sen. John Gordner, R-27, and Sen. Gene Yaw, R-23, would enable officials to implement the safety plans that work best for the schools and communities they serve. The bill now moves on to Education Committee in the state House of Representatives, where it deserves continuing support.
NOTE: Opinions expressed in The Daily Item’s editorials are the consensus of the publisher and top newsroom executives. Today’s was written by Digital Editor Dave Hilliard.