MONROEVILLE (KDKA) — The Gateway School Board voted 7-2 Tuesday night to put armed police officers in all of its schools.
In the past, the board says they’ve had two trained officers covering seven buildings, plus three unarmed guards.
The new plan will place eight part-time officers in the high school and keep one full-time officer in one middle school, while adding two part-time officers at the other middle school. It will also add two part-time officers at each of the district’s four elementary schools.
School Board President Chad Stubenbort says the plan is within the district’s balanced $71.3 million budget.
“We think it’s a great advantage,” Stubenbort said after the vote. “And again, the biggest thing is the safety of the students, teachers, and staff in the Gateway School District.”
Before the vote, several residents addressed the board, both in support of the plan as well as against it.
Glenn Raymer lives in Monroeville, but works as an assistant principal in the Butler Area School District. In December of 2012, the Butler School Board approved putting armed officers in the district’s schools.
Raymer addressed the Gateway School Board saying, “The best way to defend our kids was to make sure guys who were well trained, who had the ability, were armed and could face any threat. Internal threat, external threat. Bottom line, we want to make sure our kids are safe.”
“We’ve got a problem with guns and the way to secure buildings…is not to have somebody in there with a gun also,” said Monroeville resident David Beistel. “I agree with him that you might have to have a trained professional there, but with a gun? In a school?”
Stephanie Byrne is one of the two board members who voted against the plan. She says she’s not against armed officers in the schools, but thinks they should be current officers with local police departments instead of retired officers. Byrne says that would allow the police departments to make sure officers are up-to-date with their training, instead of it being the responsibility of the school board, which doesn’t contain anyone with a law enforcement background.
“I will certainly do my due diligence to ensure that the school police officers are as best trained as they can be,” Byrne told KDKA after the vote.
Stubenbort said the courts have to approve the district starting a school police force. Once it’s approved, they’ll be able to move forward with the hiring process.
Gateway School District is just the latest district to start arming its security over recent years, but some of the largest districts in the area have resisted that change.
The largest district with armed officers is the Butler Area School District. It approved the change back in 2012.
Also, the Armstrong, Hempfield Area and Canon-McMillan districts all have at least one armed officer or guard.
Pittsburgh Public Schools do not have armed officers.
Here is the security situation at more than 20 other school districts in the area:
- North Allegheny – No armed security
- Butler Area – Approved armed officers in schools in December 2012
- Hempfield Area – One school armed guard, rotates among schools. He is a retired state police trooper. Eight other retired police officers on staff, but they are not armed.
- Mt. Lebanon – No armed security
- Norwin – No armed security
- Canon-McMillan – Armed resource officer at high school.
- Shaler Area – No armed security
- Pine-Richland – No armed security
- Connellsville Area – Only the school police chief has a firearm at this time.
- Bethel Park -Two resource officers are armed
- Franklin Regional – Yes
- Albert Gallatin Area – Approved security guards with Act 235 Lethal Weapons. Training to carry a firearm when stationed at the front entrance of the high school and its parking lots.
- Gateway – Approved armed officers in all schools Tuesday night
- Uniontown Area – Approved armed security in schools in April 2014
- Mount Pleasant -Yes
- South Allegheny – Yes
- Peters Township – One resource officer, who is also a Peters Township Police Officer, is armed. He only patrols the high school.
- Armstrong School District – Yes, contracted out. Full-time officers at high school and a routine throughout elementary schools.