The Tamaqua Area School Board will vote on a measure to suspend a controversial policy that would allow employees to carry guns in school.
A motion to stop the policy’s implementation was approved for the agenda for the board’s regular meeting Tuesday. Security Committee members approved the agenda in a 2-1 vote during a work session Tuesday evening.
According to the proposed motion, “The Security Committee approves suspending implementation of school district Policy 705, pending a resolution as to its validity by the Court of Common Pleas of Schuylkill County.”
Board President Larry Wittig and Director Thomas Rottet were in favor of adding the motion to the agenda, but Director Nicholas Boyle — who chairs the Safety Committee — was not.
“I’m voting no on that,” Boyle said. “My issue with delaying the policy is that we’re allowing the anti-gun, anti-Second Amendment lobbyist group to dictate school policy.
“If something happened because we delayed the policy, it’s going to be us here in this room cleaning up the mess while they go back to Philadelphia — and I have a big issue with that,” he said. “And that’s going to drag this out for a year, a year and a half, whatever it’s going to be.”
Boyle didn’t name the group, but, CeaseFirePA, based in Philadelphia, has rallied against the policy, which was approved unanimously in September.
Wittig emphasized Wednesday that a move to suspend the policy should not be interpreted as its death knell.
“We’re still 100 percent committed to Policy 705 and the substance of it,” he said in an email. “We felt that incurring expense for training and other employee investment would be a waste of money now, if we have to go through an appeal process. Tamaqua School District will not be bullied by these outside groups.”
The district’s teachers union filed a lawsuit against the policy in November, and last week parents and grandparents filed an additional lawsuit saying the policy violates state law.
The latest lawsuit was announced Friday during a news conference organized by CeaseFirePA and members of Tamaqua Citizens for Safe Schools, which was formed in response to the policy’s passage.
Neither lawsuit asked for monetary damages, only legal fees.
Frank Wenzel, president of the teachers union, said he’s under no illusions that this move to suspend the policy signals a change of heart for the majority of the school board.
“I don’t see it as lessening their intent to pursue this,” Wenzel said of the gun policy. “I don’t think we’ll see a resolution here until the court makes a ruling.”
Last month, the district filed preliminary objections to the union’s suit.
Tamaqua Area is the first district in the commonwealth to approve a policy that allows employees to carry concealed weapons on the job. The school board adopted it as a defense against shooting situations.
In November, more than 100 people turned out to ask the board to drop the policy and employ other means to keep students and staffers safe. Attendees said research shows that arming teachers is not the way to go, and suggested shooter detection systems, better screenings of visitors, threat assessments and mental health support.
During Tuesday’s committee workshops, Superintendent Ray Kinder Jr. said he has been looking at costs to install Guardian Sensor Technology, which would detect gunshots. In addition, he’s been researching emergency alert systems, facility entry changes, grants and active shooter training.
Under the policy, school personnel would volunteer to carry a concealed weapon. They would undergo Act 235 training — a state requirement for anyone who carries a gun as part of their job. The training is similar to that of state and municipal police officers. Armed staffers would also receive a stipend.
The school board meets at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday at the middle school.
Morning Call Reporter Sarah M. Wojcik contributed to this story.