HARRISBURG, Pa. (WHTM) — Legislation amending Act 44, Pennsylvania’s School Safety and Security Law, is on the move at the Capitol.
Senate Bill 621, which recently passed the Senate 32-17, was introduced by Sen. Mike Regan.
“It happened fairly quickly, but it was grueling. There was a lot of opposition on the Democrats’ side,” said Regan, (R-Cumberland/York).
Regan introduced the legislation in response to a memo released by the Pennsylvania Department of Education. In the memo entitled “Act 44 updates”, PDE shared its interpretation of Act 44, saying under the law, only school police officers and school resource officers can carry firearms in schools. The problem is many school districts already have armed security guards.
After the memo went out, some schools unarmed those guards, raising safety concerns and questions about taxpayer money funding contracts for armed security guards that are no longer armed.
Senate Bill 621 sets a training standard through the National Association of School Resource Officers for all school security personnel, whether armed or not.
“They talk about dealing with different ethnic groups and dealing with kids who are suffering from violence at home and a lot of things that I think are very important to officers in the school to know how to deal with and relate to,” Regan said.
The bill also clears up confusion about sheriffs and deputy sheriffs providing security in schools, and it also makes it clear school security guards can be armed, an option which can often be more affordable for school districts.
“Our goal was to make sure schools are able to do what they want to do as it relates to security. We are just trying to clear the path for them, and I think we did that and I think it’s going to make schools safer,” said Regan.
Senate Bill 621 is awaiting consideration in the House. It has been referred to the House Education Committee.