Legislation that would implement a security presence with an armed, retired police officer in all publicly funded schools in Pennsylvania was introduced by Rep. Mike Regan (R-York/Cumberland) today.
“The presence of a highly trained, retired law enforcement officer would add a significant measure of security in our schools, and would go a long way toward putting our parents’ and children’s minds at ease,” said Regan. “This is a well thought-out measure that does not overreact and seek to create a climate of unease, but will provide students, teachers and administrators with a professional who can monitor safety procedures and be trusted to react effectively and responsibly in a crisis.”
House Bill 896 would require officers to undergo a complete background investigation and be annually certified in position-specific training. Their primary responsibility would be to screen visitors for weapons and detect threats before allowing entrance into the school.
Regan said that the officers would also maintain direct lines of communication with school officials and local law enforcement, and be able to provide real-time information to local law enforcement in the event of an incident. Additionally, the officers would coordinate school security drills, and review and make recommendations regarding the school’s disaster response and emergency management plan. “They have to maintain their firearms proficiency training, which I think is due twice a year. The thought is there would be implantation of active shooter training where they’re trained to confront an active intruder.”
Regan, a retired United States Marshal, said that there are many advantages to working with men and women who have already had experience as police officers.
“These officers have already been tested in stressful situations throughout their careers,” said Regan. “Bringing this expertise and professionalism to a school setting could only result in a safer environment. Many law enforcement officers are able to retire after 25 years of service at a relatively young age,” added Regan. “In addition to their experience, they have health care and pension benefits already derived from their original positions, thus relieving school districts and the Commonwealth of that added expense. I believe this is the most cost-effective and efficient way to protect our children and our teachers while they are in school.”
The bill has been referred to the House Education Committee. They have to bring it to a vote and if passed, then it would be up to lawmakers to pass it.
“I can’t think of anything that is more important than protecting our kids,” said Regan.
“There’s children being killed, that could have happened here at our school. We would definitely want to have an armed guard,” said Parent Shenina Orr from York. She says it seems like a good idea but the lack of funding is questionable. “If the state is going to put it there then the state should be paying for it. If that’s what they want then they should do it. It shouldn’t come out of taxpayer pockets. It shouldn’t hurt our schools. It should help the schools,” said Orr.
Right now the bill is an unfunded mandate but one option would be the Passport For Learning Grant. Under Governor Tom Corbett’s budget proposal for next year if the state’s lottery system is sold, money would go to public schools. One of the subdivisions is school security so that would be one potential funding stream.