Schuylkill County teachers union sues to stop school district from arming them

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SCHUYLKILL COUNTY — A Schuylkill County school district’s plan to arm teachers hit a roadblock Wednesday afternoon, according to WNEP-TV.

The union representing teachers in the Tamaqua Area School District is suing to stop the district’s plans to arm them, WNEP reports.

In a news release, the Tamaqua Education Association wrote that arming teachers is a bad idea — but that’s not why it went to court.

Lawyers for the union say the school’s plan is illegal.

The Tamaqua Area School Board announced plans to provide firearms training for some teachers and have them carry guns in school earlier this year. Those plans have divided the community ever since, WNEP reports.

At public meetings, some feared arming teachers, janitors, and support staffers would likely lead to problems like accidental shootings.

“We recognize that there is a need for protection, but we do not think that arming the staff is the answer to this problem,” said Tamaqua student Paige Pratt at one such meeting, according to WNEP.

But parents, who say it’s impossible to know where the next school shooting will take place, feel the district’s schools need to do something to protect their kids.

“If the teachers are trained, they should be allowed to carry guns,” said Jil McMahon.

“I was in school since Columbine happened. It has been a very big concern,” Gabrielle Dannenfelser added.

The Tamaqua Area School Board voted unanimously last week to allow some teachers and school staff members to carry handguns in holsters after completing a two-year firearms training program.

The teachers’ union filed suit in Schuylkill County court to stop that training from taking place, claiming that state law  allows only trained police officers to carry guns in schools.

“The district’s policy ignores state law, and allows school employees who do not have state-required training or experience to carry and use firearms,” union president Frank Wentzel said in a statement. “We must follow the law to ensure students and staff remain safe.”

Tamaqua Area school officials have not responded to the lawsuit, which also claims that the Pennsylvania state legislature would have to change state laws before volunteer teachers and staffers could be trained to carry guns in school.

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