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Are Guns in Schools Okay? Apparently So, According to Some PA Lawmakers

Jacques-Jean Tiziou

Are Guns in Schools Okay? Apparently So, According to Some PA Lawmakers

In the weeks that followed the tragic shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School a number of people at the national level, including members of Congress and the National Rifle Association, have called for armed guards and/or police officers in public schools. Now, we are seeing the same trend in Pennsylvania. In January, Senator Joseph Scarnati put forward an amendment to the PA Public School Code, Senate Bill 10, which is calling for an increase in funding for the Safe Schools Targeted Grant. Currently that grant has an annual award of $500,000; Scarnati would like to see that increased to $10 Million per year to be used for armed police and school resource officers.

We know that putting guns in our schools is not the solution to school violence. Schools around the country, including Philadelphia, have spent millions of dollars on metal detectors, armed police officers and school resource officers (SROs), often with devastating results for students – especially students of color, LGTBQ students, and students with disabilities.

These measures, along with discipline policies that rely on suspensions and expulsions, do not increase graduation rates or make students feel safer. In fact, they only increase the time students spend out of school and increase arrests and referrals to the criminal justice system – especially for nonviolent student behavior like “disrespect”. This is what we mean when we talk about the school-to-prison pipeline, and it has to stop.

Instead of putting more money into armed police, metal detectors, and surveillance cameras that only make our schools feel more like prisons, we should be spending money on preventing violence through programs like Restorative Practices. We saw what happened when restorative practices were implemented at West Philly High. If we build strong relationships with teachers, staff, and students in our schools and talk about problems, we can stop many of the day-to-day issues from escalating.

We are members of the national Dignity in Schools Campaign and the Alliance for Educational Justice. Together with the Advancement Project and the NAACP Legal Defense Fund we all put out a statement on why police in schools are not the solution. Check out our national position here.

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