Task force to study violence in schools OK’d by Pa. lawmakers

    The call for additional security in schools in Pennsylvania is likely to get a lot more attention in the coming months.

    But top state officials and lawmakers say the emphasis should be on measures such as better door locks rather than armed guards and teachers.

    The state Senate has approved creating a task force to study how to prevent mass shootings at schools in the wake of the elementary school shooting in Connecticut last month.

    Senate President Pro Tem Joe Scarnati says he would stop short of pushing for arming school teachers.

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    “That debate is best had once we define what we can provide,” said Scarnati, R-Jefferson. “But teachers being armed, I haven’t had any conversations with any teachers yet that would like to be armed, and I haven’t had an email from a teacher that would like to be armed.”

    The state Education Secretary Ron Tomalis says he also hasn’t heard school districts clamoring to arm their teachers, although about 140 school districts and charter schools have the authority to use armed guards.

    He says local leaders should be able to decide for themselves if they want such resources.

    “Some school districts – large school districts, for example Pittsburgh and Philadelphia, our two larger school districts – don’t have any armed officers in their school buildings. They don’t believe it’s right for them,” Tomalis said Wednesday. “Other school districts have a small number of it, they have it in areas around high schools but they don’t have it around elementary schools and they don’t have it full time.”

    The task force will be made up of roughly 25 public officials and violent crime experts. The panel’s findings will be due by the end of the year.

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