Pa. bill would allow armed teachers in classroom

Philadelphia PA Oct 6 2014 The saying that the best defense is a good offense is not necessarily a strategy most wish would be applied to schools.

But as the issue of school safety stemming from school shootings continues, some lawmakers and schools are looking at offensive measures to help protect students.

One such measure is a bill in the state Senate Education Committee that would allow school employees to carry guns on school property. The bill was introduced as another option for protecting students, especially those in rural areas that rely on often-distant state troopers for police protection, The Associated Press reported.

That measure, however, does not sit well with everyone — even those who back offensive defense training for school staff.

After the Columbine shooting, former law enforcement officer Greg Crane co-founded the ALICE Training Institute with his wife, an elementary school principal. The two designed a training regimen for schools across the country that would allow staff to take action if confronted with an intruder.

Though a number of states allow teachers to carry guns on school property, Crane said he has not included weapons in the training program and does not believe they are a good idea.

“It’s actually not at all the same for people using weapons for self-defense as it is to use it (offensively),” Crane said. “(Arming teachers) is asking too much of teachers to be … the security force. If there’s a shooting in the cafeteria, what are the teachers supposed to do? Are they supposed to leave their students alone to respond?”

Mike Hurley, co-founder and president of Cumberland County Safe Schools Association, said there has been discussion locally on arming school staff after the Newtown, Connecticut, shooting, but the association has no position on the matter.

“There was a lot of discussion, there was a lot of different opinions, a lot of pros and cons that have to be looked at, and I think that’s something each school district has to look at with their own community,” he said.

Crane said there is a danger in adding more guns to an intruder scenario. He used the attempted assassination of Ronald Reagan as an example, saying the Secret Service members present were all armed but they did not fire their weapons — they used their numbers to tackle the shooter.

“They did not shoot back, but subdued him in three seconds,” Crane said. “They did it with overwhelming numbers. In that environment, there was a lot of friendlies standing around, and it’s unacceptable to put other people at risk.”

Intruder Training

Although using guns is not an option as a defensive measure in Pennsylvania, what is being taught is a way for teachers and staff to verbally or physically intervene when confronted with a violent and armed intruder.

Since its founding after Columbine, the ALICE Training Institute has trained teachers in 49 states and reached students in kindergarten through 12th grade. Crane said they are branching out to training staff in the private sector of education.

Crane said the training itself is not so much physical as it is retraining the policies with which the schools follow in intruder incidents.

“It’s not something out of a manual,” Crane said. “We don’t want you fighting a gunman, but you may have to mitigate his chances of hurting someone.”

The point of the training is to follow what Crane believes is the better instinct to flee instead of instituting the sole method of a lockdown.

“I don’t understand why in a fire everyone gets out of the building, but you stay in the building when an intruder is on the loose,” Crane said. “At Sandy Hook, the children who ran out of the classroom survived. Why didn’t we evacuate if it is possible?

“We don’t dismiss lockdowns as strategy, but we dismiss lockdowns as policy,” he added.
The training isn’t too involved because Crane said it can’t be.

“It really is very simple — it had to be very, very simple,” he explained. “In (a confrontation), people are not going to come up with fine motor skills and complicated (orders). But it is also very, very effective.”

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