Parents oppose school district policy to arm teachers

TAMAQUA, Pa. (AP) — A school district policy that allows teachers and other employees to carry firearms has met overwhelming criticism from parents.

Parents questioned Tamaqua Area School District officials during a meeting Wednesday, the Morning Call reported . School board members passed the policy in a unanimous vote last month. The policy allows staffers to carry handguns in holsters after completing firearms and lethal weapons training.

Parents opposing the policy believe there are safer, more affordable alternatives. They suggest the school hire part-time police officers or install a shooter detection system that alerts police.

Critics think the district should also invest in preventative measures like mental health support and threat evaluations. They see the practices as long-term initiatives.

"The goal of a prevention plan is not to stop an active shooter in the moment but to prevent a student from ever becoming one," said parent Jennifer Paisley.

Fifteen-year-old Tamaqua Area High School sophomore Madelyn Jones was one of several students who shared their concerns about the new policy during the packed meeting.

"I do not feel safe with teachers being the ones who protect us," Jones said.

Joe Eaton leads an Ohio-based program called FASTER Saves Lives that trains school staff to respond to active shooters. Eaton acknowledged that school shootings are rare but highlighted the need to protect students.

The Pennsylvania State Education Association opposes arming teachers and plans to conduct a legal review of Tamaqua's policy.

School Board President Larry Wittig promised that the board will "look into everything people presented."

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Information from: The Morning Call, http://www.mcall.com