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Tamaqua suspends gun policy

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    Nick Boyle of the Tamaqua Area School District board explains why he voted against suspending a policy which would have allowed armed teachers. CHRIS REBER/TIMES NEWS

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    After the school board in Tamaqua Area School District suspended a controversial policy to arm teachers, residents like Tracy Perry suggested other options. CHRIS REBER/TIMES NEWS

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    After the school board in Tamaqua Area School District suspended a controversial policy to arm teachers, residents like Tracy Perry suggested other options. CHRIS REBER/TIMES NEWS

Published January 16. 2019 12:06PM

Tamaqua School Board voted to suspend the controversial policy which would allow trained teachers to carry guns and use deadly force in case of an active shooter.

The board voted 8-1 with Nick Boyle, the creator of the policy voting against. Boyle cited the recent Stoneman Douglas report but also maintained that opponents to the policy are being orchestrated by outside groups.

Policy 705, adopted in September, allowed teachers to volunteer to be trained to carry weapons in school during class time. Teachers would be trained under the state’s Lethal Weapons Training Program and be authorized to use force up to and including deadly force in situations where necessary, such as an active shooter.

Two lawsuits are pending against the district in Schuylkill County Court over the policy.

The district teachers’ union says in a suit that state law already has a framework for putting armed security in schools, and further states that the lethal weapons training program can’t be used for government employees. A separate suit from parents says the board intentionally passed the policy in secret.

Board President Larry Wittig said before the vote that he supported suspending the implementation of Policy 705 because the district is at the point where it would have to start investing heavily in training and possibly even additional staff. He said he didn’t want that money to be wasted depending on the outcome of the court battle.

“I think it’s a prudent thing from a fiscal perspective to not implement it, or suspend the implementation at this time,” Wittig said.

Wittig said he was proud of board member Nick Boyle, the architect of Policy 705.

Boyle was the only other board member who spoke before the vote. He thanked the board for helping endorse a policy which allowed staff to act as the students’ guardians.

He cited the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Commission in arguing that armed staff are better than officers. He said the sheriffs’ deputies who responded to the Stoneman Douglas tragedy were on site within two minutes, however 21 students had already been shot, Boyle said.

“During these events, administrators and teachers are usually the first ones killed shielding their students. This report states that a rapid response by an SRO is insufficient in and of itself,” Boyle said.

Boyle also responded to critics of the policy, suggesting they were orchestrated by anti-gun political groups. He doubled down on comments last week, when he said that following a tragedy, CeaseFirePA would tiptoe back to Philadelphia while Tamaqua residents would be left with the mess. He said that CeaseFire wouldn’t just tiptoe back, it would attempt to take guns from law-abiding citizens.

“In the last seven days, they are supporting the ban of the most common rifle owned by American citizens, and standard capacity magazines. They’re also supporting legislation in the commonwealth to ban all semi-automatic firearms,” he said. “This goes against the values of this community, the majority of which are freedom-loving Americans.”

Following the vote, residents had a chance to speak.

Lisa Behr, a mother of three district students, said she was disappointed that the debate around the policy went from what was best for the students to Boyle standing up for the second amendment. She said that she believed that the board truly thought Policy 705 was the best way to protect students, even if she disagreed.

“This is not what we need in this community. What we need is policy that’s based on the best for our students. That statement proved and showed the true intent of this policy and it’s completely disturbing,” she said.

Tracy Perry, whose four children graduated from Tamaqua, suggested that the board take the money it had appropriated for the program for this school year — 12 volunteers paid a $2,000 stipend — and use it to create a full-time school resource officer position so a trained person, like a retired state trooper or military personnel — could patrol the schools.

Wittig said it would take about three months to get someone trained, by which point the year would be nearly over.

“Even if we implement that, what you’re talking about, tomorrow, which I have no problem with personally, and I don’t know if the board would either, it’s a matter of scheduling and a matter of getting it up and running,” Wittig said.

Perry said that the board should have been looking at other avenues starting when parents suggested them at a town hall back in November. She said the group that the board intended to contract with, FASTER, didn’t have any training sessions available until this spring.

“If that had started as soon as this lawsuit, you might have already been in the process,” Perry said.

Following the meeting, the president of the teachers’ union said they are looking forward to their day in court.

“I believe we need to hire professionals to protect our students,” Frank Wenzel said. “I don’t believe it’s the teachers’ job to do that.”

The board bowed to political and financial blackmail, a tactic used regularly by the Left. Unaffordable frivolous lawsuits win out every time when the backers of the suit are deep pocketed billionaires like Michael Bloomberg or labor unions. More dues paying employees and higher taxes could be avoided and student safety increased if Policy 705 were adopted and implemented.
Regardless of what this policy is about or any policy the board passes, their own board policy (you can read it on the district web site) is that they must follow PA laws and regulations. The board’s own attorney when asked at a board meeting several months ago was not in favor of 705 due to no PA statute to follow. Mr. Boyle has stated publicly that through this policy he’s granting teachers the right to carry a weapon on school property. I know school boards in general have tremendous leeway and power to do what they want. Can someone please point me to whatever law, regulation, statute, anything that allows a PA school board the right to grant rights not already granted by our state? If they have that power then I would think the lawsuits should be defeated, and the policy will stand. I’m not looking for a 2nd amendment debate. We all know guns are regulated. I’m just not clear on how much leeway PA boards have.
Republican's finally realize their wrong? Sick of their Deviant lifestyles being jammed down our throats.
They need to pay attention to the 2nd commandment. Instead they drool over phallic images of guns.

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