Pittsburgh Public Board Reaffirms Commitment To Gun-Free Schools

Jul 26, 2018

The Pittsburgh Public Schools board approved a resolution Wednesday night opposing state or federal legislation that would arm teachers.

Board President Regina Holley, a former principal who noted that she had lost students to gun violence, said it is important to clarify the district’s stance as lawmakers continue to advocate for arming teachers in order to protect students from intruders.

“I want to be very clear that the resolution is an affirmation of how the board feels about gun safety,” she said.

The resolution reaffirms the district’s policy that bans guns in schools. It did not change any school district policy. Currently, the only people allowed to have guns in school are city or state police officers in the course of their duties. School police do not carry firearms.

“This is an appropriate time for us to make this statement that our federal government is wrong, the NRA is wrong, our legislators are wrong for trying to arm people in schools,” she said.

Board members Terry Kennedy and Cindy Falls abstained from the vote after a lengthy debate about process, the way the resolution was introduced to the board and what both called a lack of community and staff input on the board’s stance.

Kennedy took issue with language in the resolution. She said naming groups including the Trump Administration and the National Rifle Association would make the board’s stance political in nature.

The board denied Kennedy’s motion to amend the language. Moira Kaleida, who introduced the statement, said watering down the wording, “does a disservice to those who have died at the hands of firearms.”

The approved resolution states, “The Board of Directors fo the Pittsburgh Public School District wholly rejects the misguided suggestion advanced by the current Trump Administration, the National Rifle Association, and some members of the Pennsylvania General Assembly, that it is either desirable or appropriate to arm teachers in schools for any purpose, and will maintain existing prohibition of firearms at school and will not support any effort to arm educators and support staff.”

A bill is making its way through the Pennsylvania legislature would allow districts to create their own policies to permit access to guns on school property. The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported in March that Sen. Don White, a Republican from Indiana County who introduced the legislation, renewed his efforts to arm teachers after the Florida school shooting. 

The Pittsburgh resolution also echoes what many students across the country have advocated for, especially since the February school shooting in Parkland, Fla.

The school board made nine gun safety proposals to legislators, including banning the purchase and sale of assault weapons, increasing funding to hire more counselors in schools and providing funding for gun violence research.