Schools have increasingly become a target for sick and twisted individuals intent on taking the lives of others. Yet only half of Pennsylvania schools have school security personnel on-site to protect students and staff.
It has been ten years since I introduced legislation to require every school to have an armed officer in each building.
At the end of 2012, before I was sworn into the House of Representatives, I happily welcomed a group of fourth graders from the Northern York School District to my new office during a tour of the Capitol. They laughed, they asked questions, and they were excited to be in the Capitol. I gave them each a fist bump as they boarded their bus to return to school.
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After our goodbyes, I got in my car to head home. I was overwhelmingly saddened and rocked to my core moments later when I turned on the radio to hear the breaking news about the Sandy Hook massacre in Newtown, Connecticut. With the heartwarming experience I had just had with those fourth graders weighing heavily on my mind, I knew, at that moment, that with my background and experience in securing federal courthouses as a U.S. Marshal, I could offer a plan to protect our schools in Pennsylvania.
Since Sandy Hook, there have been more than 200 shootings resulting in fatalities at K–12 schools across the country. Over 40 of those have occurred just this year, while last year saw 37 and the prior year saw 38. Those numbers only reflect shootings in which at least one victim died. Thus far in 2023, shootings in K–12 schools have resulted in 47 deaths and 151 wounded victims.
And we are learning from these events that attackers, like the one in Nashville, Tennessee, in March of this year, are targeting schools with lax security standards.
That is why I have reintroduced legislation to require every publicly funded school in Pennsylvania to employ at least one armed, trained, and vetted police officer, resource officer, or security guard during school hours.
My original House bill was unable to get traction due to the lack of appetite in the legislature to spend the money to make this happen. Unfortunately, the cries that this will cost too much still exist today.
Based on data from the Pennsylvania Department of Education, only approximately one-half of Pennsylvania’s 500 school districts have hired any form of school security personnel, even though funding for schools to do so has been made available since 1999.
Additionally, in 2018, the legislature established the School Safety and Security Fund grant program, which has provided over $500 million to schools, and this year’s state budget appropriated another $125 million.
What is more important — a child’s life or a turf football field?
We also appropriated $9.3 billion in basic education funding this year. Finally, let’s not forget that school districts across the state have a combined $3.2 billion in reserves. In my Senate district alone, $50 million of taxpayers’ money sits in accounts labeled “unassigned funds.”
Yet opponents of this proposal still say schools can’t afford it.
What Pennsylvania schools can’t afford is to ignore the growing statistics and the fact that an attack could happen in any one of our school buildings at any time.
I have to wonder: what is more important — a child’s life or a turf football field?
Opponents are also against arming school security personnel.
Current law requires armed school personnel to successfully complete rigorous requirements, including Act 235 lethal weapons training, as well as training through the National Association of School Resource Officers (NASRO). Also, most of the individuals being vetted for these security positions are either current or former police officers. We are talking about highly skilled professionals who have spent their careers handling firearms and who would be confidently and efficiently able to use those firearms, if necessary, to protect our sons and daughters.
Students, parents, and teachers cannot wait another ten years and shouldn’t have to wait another minute without action being taken on this important proposal.
It’s time to ensure that all publicly funded Pennsylvania schools have armed and trained officers who are solely focused on protecting our kids, so teachers and administrators can confidently focus on educating them.
Sen. Mike Regan represents the 31st Senatorial District, covering parts of Cumberland and York counties, and has introduced legislation to require a trained and armed security officer in every publicly funded school building in Pennsylvania. He serves as Chairman of the Senate Law and Justice Committee. Prior to serving in the General Assembly, first in the state House of Representatives and now in the Senate, Regan was a member of the U.S. Marshals Service within the U.S. Department of Justice from 1988–2011.