I was truly appalled when I watched video of the Pennsylvania House Education Committee hearing on school safety on March 15. While the first panels summarized what’s happening in the state, what teacher and education organizations feel should be happening, and what’s happening elsewhere in the country, the last panel was a grab bag. What was most surprising was the final panelist.
During his testimony, the superintendent of Blue Mountain School District discussed their dual-service maintenance person and armed security guard. More troubling was the superintendent’s discussion of the buckets of river rocks housed in each classroom (including elementary classes of 5-yearolds) as a defense plan in the case of an armed intruder.
Most shocking of all was the behavior of legislators during this last panelist’s testimony. While the superintendent described turning elementary schoolers into armed protectors of their school, Rep. Mark Gillen said, “When you do your training for the river stone throwing, I would like to observe that as a member of the House Education Committee.” The superintendent laughed in response. Then my own state legislator, Rep. Dave Hickernell, joked, “We’ll take the committee on the road for that, how’s that?”
This is extremely repugnant behavior and I’m shocked by their light-hearted behavior. School safety is not a laughing matter and perhaps rather than spending the hearing joking about threatened children armed only with rocks, they could instead focus on the real solutions presented by the other panelists including funding school student support teams and upgrading aging schools.
Republican leaders invited a teacher to testify in favor of school staff carrying concealed weapons. However, lawmakers did not adequately hear other perspectives; they didn’t invite any organization that could provide extensive evidence that adding guns to our children’s schools will dramatically raise the odds that students will be accidentally hurt or killed by firearms. I would like to see another hearing that includes testimony from organizations denied a chance in the last hearing.