By Jami Amo
Last Tuesday, Gov. Tom Wolf signed a bill (SB621) into law creating new categories of armed security guards for our schools.
Aware of great concern about and opposition to arming teachers, Wolf issued a signing statement saying this bill does not and will not allow the arming of teachers. For many, the idea of more armed security might bring comfort. But for me, the passage and signing of this bill is a sign that our legislature is so weak they cannot bear to stand up for even the youngest children in our schools.
First of all, statewide, funding per student by district varies so widely; disparity is obvious already.
An increase in funding will allot fiscal space to provide these armed Security Officers, though some regions simply don’t have the resources to dedicate. Third-party security firms will be granted permission to enter these roles as long as they meet the conditions laid out in the bill. This is unacceptable to me aside from the obvious false claim that more guns equate to more safety.
On May 7, a student was shot inside her classroom, injured by a bullet fired by a private security guard, who would have met the provisos of the new Pennsylvania law at the STEM school in Highlands Ranch, Colo.
This location is just a few miles from where I grew up, outside Littleton, Colo.
I was 15 years old on April 20, 1999, standing in the cafeteria at Columbine High School, as shots erupted outside the windows. Within three minutes our armed school resource officer, a dedicated sheriff’s deputy, arrived directly at the site of the shooting. He engaged in counter-fire but the massacre continued.
He shielded students between his squad car and others in the parking lot, later found riddled with bullet holes. More armed guards wouldn’t have made a difference at Columbine.
The response at Marjory Stoneman Douglas in Parkland, Fla., highlights heartbreakingly why our active shooter protocols are of utmost significance. The circumstances at the STEM school demonstrate precisely the most lethal hazard of the introduction of private security vendors.
The real solution to school shootings isn’t more armed guards; and if you choose to ignorantly believe there is one singular solution to this gun violence epidemic, open your eyes.
We have created a culture where guns and violence are worshipped and the victims and survivors are left to fend for themselves in the wake of severe trauma. Our legislative bodies have done very little to protect anyone from gun violence, and yet some of them tout their dedication to gun violence prevention right here in Pennsylvania.
But they voted in favor of SB 621.
We have created a plan for our schools’ safety that trains children from early ages to expect a shooter to enter their school, we ask that they run, hide, and ultimately sacrifice themselves to save their classmates, like Kendrick Castillo did at STEM.
Yet we have not funded dedicated mental health counselors in all schools, we have not expanded access to quality mental health care, and we have not provided our children with adequate socio-emotional learning programs like peer mediation and conflict resolution.
Our media continues to fuel the cycle of notoriety that spurs some of these horrific massacres.
As a survivor of gun violence, one of hundreds of thousands in this nation, I can tell you that more guns are not the solution to our problem.
Guns in schools is a plan destined to have disastrous repercussions. We have already learned so many lessons the hard way, we do not have to allow them to repeat ad nauseum.
I cannot list here all of the children who have been murdered in their schools since 1999, but I carry them in my heart, with no luxury of turning away. Two of my three children will be in elementary school next year, and I am terrified for their future.
Jami Amo is a survivor of the shooting at Columbine High School, in Littleton, Colo. Amo writes from Abington, Pa.