PITTSTON, Pa. (WBRE/WYOU) — A school district in Luzerne County is ramping up its methods to protect schools. The Pittston Area School District has added shotguns and rifles to its armor for school officers.
We live in a world where schools are constantly looking for ways to heighten their security to better protect students, teachers, and staff in the event of a school shooting.
This month, a shotgun and an AR-15 rifle were locked in each of Pittston Area’s schools. The guns are locked up but on hand in the event of a school’s most dreaded tragedy.
“We purchased four shotguns and four AR-15s for our school police officers, fully equipped them in the case of a school shooting or some other terrible horrific incident,” said Kevin Booth, superintendent of the Pittston Area School District.
In the wake of recent school shootings involving high-powered semi-automatic weapons, the Pittston Area School District armed its school’s police officers with the same caliber weapons.
“We’re armed with a handgun, a pistol. A pistol has its limitations — the number of ammunition, the distance that it could fire with precision — and that’s where an AR-15 comes into play,” Tom Kelly, school resource officer at Pittston Area School District, said.
The guns will be locked up in a safe in all four schools, including the Martin F. Quinn Pittston Area Primary Center in Hughestown where Officer Kelly works.
“Each weapon has its purpose, so to have one here and available instead of having to call 911 waiting for them to arrive from other police departments, which they would and they will, it’s just nice to know that they’re right here,” Kelly stated.
For security reasons, Eyewitness News was not allowed to see the guns or safe.
“The safes have a thumbprint on them so that only our school police officer currently has access to those. They are bolted to the wall and the floor,” Booth said.
Parents say it’s scary that protecting students and teachers has to come to this.
“As long as they are kept under a lock and key, but accessible for when they need it — if, God forbid, they ever do need it,” said one parent, Joe Hull.
The increase in security measures is a first in the region to protect students and teachers. Arming school officers with semi-automatic weapons has been occurring around the nation this year.
Further security is also in the works at the schools, including door alarms that would notify administration or school police officers if a door was left open beyond a set length of time.