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PA Senate Debates More Money For School Security, Including Armed Guards

The Pennsylvania Senate’s top office holder says he wants to see millions more in grants for schools trying to beef up their security.

Senate President Pro Tempore Joe Scarnati, of Jefferson County, said in a co-sponsorship memo that the legislation was prompted by the “nationwide discussion on the issue of school safety” after school shooting in Newtown, Connecticut last month.

Scarnati’s proposal would increase funding for a state Department of Education grant program from $500,000 to $10 million. Schools would be allowed to use the grants to train and hire armed security guards, and fund security planning and purchases.

“This can be used for electronic monitoring, it can be used for metal detectors, it can be used for putting armed guards at the schools – resource officers, as the schools call them – and conflict resolution for students,” said Scarnati.

The state’s largest teachers union doesn’t oppose the measure. But Pennsylvania State Education Association spokesman, Wythe Keever, said his group would like to see a more comprehensive approach to increasing school safety, like hiring additional school counselors, strengthening mental health programs, and passing additional restrictions on gun use.

“This isn’t just about guns and it’s not just about armed guards,” said Keever. “A long-term sustainable school safety program has to have commitment to preventive measures, like mental health services and bully prevention, and some sort of meaningful action on gun control.”