The devil is in the details, as a state Senate committee hearing demonstrated Tuesday.
The Senate Education Committee voted unanimously to amend last session’s Act 44, a law that provided $60 million in grant funding for, among other efforts, training and compensating armed school resource and police officers.
In addition to school police and resource officers, Act 44 defined the position of school security guard as an “individual employed by a school entity or a third party contractor who is assigned to a school for routine safety and security duties and is not engaged in programs with students at the school.”
That’s where the General Assembly ran into trouble.
The state Department of Education released an “Act 44 Updates” memo in February stating that, per the School Code, school security guards are not empowered to carry firearms.
“While the School Code does recognize school security guards as a type of school security official, the School Code vests school security guards with six specific duties, none of which include the authority to carry a firearm,” the Education department wrote. “As such, school security guards who are employed by school entities—either as employees or independent contractors—are not authorized to possess a firearm within the scope of that employment.”
That would change under legislation introduced by Sen. Mike Regan, R-York. The bill also allows schools to contract with sheriffs and deputy sheriffs to work as school resource officers, a previous oversight Regan said.
In addition to correcting the issues, Regan’s bill requires additional training provided through the National Association of School Resource Officers.
“The additions to the training that’s involved is going to make our schools safer,” Regan said.
Sen. Andy Dinniman, D-Chester, said he would vote for the bill, not because he necessarily agrees with arming people inside schools, but because he wants departments to respect the intent of the Legislature.
“The Senate passes legislation,” he said. “It is not the job of an administrative office to interpret our legislation when our intent is clear.”