Upper Darby police chief proposes arming teachers, but school board pushes back

Upper Darby Police Superintendent Mike Chitwood (AP, file)

Upper Darby Police Superintendent Mike Chitwood (AP, file)

Breaking with its township police chief, a school board in Delaware County has rejected the idea of arming teachers.

The Upper Darby School Board voted unanimously Tuesday for a resolution stating it “does not support any proposals to arm educators.”

Board president Rachel Mitchell said school staff shouldn’t serve the same role as trained police officers.

“We instead think our educators’ role is to teach and nurture our children,” she said. “I mean that’s really simply what it is.”

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In late February, less than a week after the school shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, Upper Darby’s top cop publicized a plan that would allow vetted school staff members to carry concealed weapons.

Michael Chitwood, the township’s outspoken police superintendent, told 6ABC news, “We got to do something, and it’s time to think out of the box.”

Located just west of Philadelphia in a densely populated swath of Delaware County, Upper Darby has one of the region’s largest school districts.

Pennsylvania prohibits teachers from having guns on school grounds, but a state Senate bill proposed in 2017 would give districts the option of allowing teachers to carry firearms. The bill passed the state Senate, but has not yet moved in the state House. Gov. Tom Wolf has said he opposes the measure.

The idea of arming teachers has gathered steam in recent weeks, with President Donald Trump endorsing the policy.

Polls suggest a majority of American oppose allowing educators to carry weapons on school grounds.

Upper Darby’s school board is a political mix, with six Democrats and three Republicans. The unanimous decision on the teacher-arming resolution surprised Democratic board member Neil Desnoyers, who hopes it will send a message to legislators considering plans to permit firearms on school grounds.

“Part of it was to let legislators know that we would like to be a voice in opposition to this proposal,” said Desnoyers.

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