It's a loaded question what's the best way to stop an armed assailant, determined to shoot people at a school?
Should a district retrofit its schools with bulletproof doors and glass? Should each school post an armed guard at the main entrance? Or should school employees, who remain anonymous, be armed with concealed guns?
Administrators at Tamaqua School District are leaning toward the third option, and during a meeting Tuesday night, took aim on that goal. The school board unanimously agreed to have its education committee 'develop a policy for the district that allows certain staff members to be trained in handling firearms.'
What happens after that who, when, how hasn't been determined. About a dozen people attended the meeting, and some had questions for the board.
"What is actually going to happen?" asked Tamaqua resident Kathleen Barker. "A lot of us have questions."
"We are very cognizant of the complexities of the whole thing," board President Larry Wittig said in response. "At the end of the day, this board is committed to the safety of its children, but the public, taxpayers, parents and students need to understand that we're doing this gingerly."
Wittig said that as part of their research on the issue, administrators have been talking with people at the state Department of Education, and that legislation to address the matter is pending at the state level. He also said that of the 500 school districts in Pennsylvania, 16 have armed guards, with 11 of those in the Philadelphia area.
But Wittig said that the Tamaqua board doesn't feel that having an armed guard is the answer.
"The people who do this (school shootings) are supreme cowards," Wittig said, adding that the knowledge that there could be a staff member carrying a concealed gun in each school would be a "reasonable deterrent" to an assailant, who "would not be going in and being completely unopposed."
The three members of the board's education committee, Wittig, Eileen Meiser and Wanda Zuber, will be developing the policy.
While the board convened in executive session, some members of the public spoke about their feelings on a firearm policy for the school district.
"I just find it frustrating, and confusing ... we can protect our government officials, our celebrities, our businesses, with guns ... why not protect our children with guns?" asked Brian Faust, Tamaqua.
Faust said he's a member of the Schuylkill County Patriots, a group that supports the Second Amendment. Information about the group is available on Facebook.
Justin Startzel, Tamaqua, a Tamaqua High School graduate, didn't think that arming staff members is a good idea.
"I don't think a teacher should have that responsibility," Startzel said. "I think it (the armed person) should be a trained professional."
Student Jacob Gursky, vice-president of the Tamaqua school's Blue and White magazine, said he's been talking about the issue with students and staff at the school, and around town.
"I've been talking to people, and it's a pretty good split," Gursky said. "Most adults I've talked to don't like the idea, but the students do."
In other business, the board:
Directed the education committee to develop a plan for the purchase of band uniforms for the 2014-15 school year.
Hired David Hassler, Bethlehem, as a German teacher, upon the submission of the necessary documentation, at a date determined by the superintendent.
Approved the request of the Tamaqua Community Camera Committee to install safety cameras on district property, based on the recommendations of the technology director.
Added Katie McCarroll, Tamaqua, to the substitute teacher list.