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Tamaqua answers teachers’ arming suit

Published December 06. 2018 12:36PM

Tamaqua Area School District has fired back at a lawsuit opposing the arming of staff filed Nov. 14 by the teachers’ union.

The district’s preliminary objections — including that the Tamaqua Education Association lacks the standing to file the suit — were filed in Schuylkill County court Tuesday by school district solicitor Jeffrey P. Bowe.

Bowe asked the court to dismiss the suit.

The teachers’ suit, filed one week after more than 100 people attended a school board meeting to speak out against the policy, argued the district wasn’t authorized by the state’s school code to adopt a policy that would arm its employees, and because the policy authorized the employees to carry firearms in schools when they haven’t received training under the Municipal Police Education and Training Law.

However, Bowe wrote that the “association must allege that (its) members or at least one (of) its members are suffering immediate or threatened injury. Therefore, the requirement that the association’s members must suffer from a direct, immediate, and substantial injury remains.”

The TEA lawsuit fails to meet that requirement, Bowe wrote.

The school district asked the court to grant its preliminary objection and dismiss the teachers’ suit “for lack of standing.”

Pennsylvania State Education Association representative Steven J. Cholish disagreed.

“We as an association absolutely have standing to bring this matter to court,” he said. “It’s a working condition of the teachers. I think that having teachers carry firearms puts everyone in the building, whether it’s a staff member, a faculty member or a student, in harm’s way,” he said.

“I don’t believe the district’s claims that we don’t have standing. I don’t see the validity in them,” Cholish said.

Among Bowe’s objections also is that there is “no specific state either authorizing or preventing” in the school code the district from adopting the policy.

He wrote that lawmakers have “passed several statutes, known as Article XIII-C School Police Officers and School Resource Officers.”

Tamaqua district’s policy falls under that umbrella, Bowe wrote, because “it is a policy designed to employ other security personnel that TASD deems necessary for the protection of students and TASD employees.”

Further, he wrote, according to state law, a “person is entitled to possess a weapon on school property if the weapon is possessed for a lawful purpose.”

Bowe also argued that the Municipal Police Education and Training Law doesn’t apply to the school district because it isn’t a municipality, college or university, and so does not have a police department.

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