Susan Spicka, Executive Director of Education Voters of PA, made the following comments at a press conference in the Harrisburg Capitol on September 12, 2017, where she joined PA Secretary of Education, Pedro Rivera, and representatives from the Education Law Center, Cease Fire PA, and Moms Demand Action to call on state lawmakers to oppose legislation that would arm school employees:
My name is Susan Spicka and I am the Executive Director of Education Voters of PA. We are a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization. Our supporters are parents and community members in every county in the commonwealth.
We believe public schools must be safe places and want to protect students from danger. We most strongly oppose allowing school personnel to carry firearms.
We only need to look to Chambersburg in Franklin County to see how allowing guns in schools can be far more dangerous than the harm this seeks to avoid.
On August 25, 2016, a teacher at a private, Christian elementary school left her loaded gun on the back of a toilet in a one-stall restroom that she shared with students. At least four children between the ages of 6 and 8 used that bathroom stall while her loaded gun was left on the back of the toilet, unattended, for 3 hours.
The reason prime sponsor of SB 383 gave for introducing legislation to arm school employees offers a deeply troubling window into the priorities of some lawmakers in this building.
He stated that his schools couldn’t afford to pay for security guards so he proposed this legislation to arm teachers instead.
He didn’t say he sponsored this bill because evidence demonstrates that arming school employees is the most effective way to keep our children safe.
He sponsored this legislation and many state senators voted to arm teachers, custodians, and lunch ladies because it is cheaper than providing enough increased state funding so that schools can hire trained professionals to support safe and healthy learning environments for our children.
Parents can’t afford for lawmakers to be cheap when it comes to keeping our children safe in their public schools.
Families were lucky that a tragedy did not occur when students in a private school in Chambersburg had access to a teacher’s loaded gun. If SB 383 becomes law, luck will run out and there may not be a happy ending for students in other schools.
We call on members of the PA House to abandon any legislation to arm school employees. We call on them to instead to invest significant additional resources into our public schools so that they have enough money to hire the trained professionals they need, including counselors and nurses, so that they can support evidence-based programs that have demonstrated improved school climate and that prevent violent incidents before they happen.