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Sides react to Tamaqua school board rescinding gun policy

Published July 11. 2019 12:19PM

Residents are happy about Tamaqua Area School Board’s announcement Tuesday that the school board’s security committee approved rescinding a controversial gun policy to arm staff.

“We’re happy to see that the board has rescinded Policy 705 and is going to rewrite the policy,” said Liz Pinkey and Karen Tharp in a statement together, who are both a part of Tamaqua Citizens for Safe Schools. “We hope that this time they will consult with teachers, members of the community and experts in school safety to come up with a policy that is based on proven, effective solutions for keeping our children safe. That policy should include preventative measures this time and focus on the simple, cost-effective measures the district could be implementing immediately instead of starting with the most extreme situation and working backward as they admittedly did with Policy 705.”

Pinkey and Tharp are both running for school board.

“I’m responding based on legislators that I talked to about the intent of the law,” school board President Larry Wittig said during the announcement. “The intent of the law is not to prevent teachers from carrying. Our specific policy is blown away because of the legislation; because of the way it was crafted.

“We will at some point be working on something that will comply with the law as it’s presently written. I just want to stress that the law does not, contrary to what the governor may have said, does not specifically preclude a staff member from going through the training and carrying.”

The decision came days after Gov. Tom Wolf signed Senate Bill 621, “which clarifies existing law to mandate explicit and more robust training requirements for armed school security personnel and further prevent the arming of untrained nonsecurity personnel, including teachers,” according to his office.

Wittig said he doesn’t know what direction the board will go now that Policy 705 has been rescinded.

“We’re certainly going to be within the law,” Wittig said. “The utmost importance here is the legitimate safety of the students, not a cosmetic safety of the students. Not something that makes adults feel good about it. To that extent, we’ll be working very hard to make sure our solicitor agrees with the direction we’re going, and we’re taking guidance from him and a lot of other input as well.”

The board president addressed Tamaqua residents with additional comments on the Tamaqua Residents for Policy 705 Facebook page.

In his message, he added, “705 was written in the Spring of 2018 and included many issues that were redefined in the new law. In order to have 705 comply with the new law it would have to be completely rewritten. The Tamaqua Area School Board chose to eliminate 705 and start over to create a policy that complies with the new law.

Wittig continued, “The mission of the Tamaqua school district has been and will be to provide the best protection from and deterrent for perpetrators of harm to our students and faculty. The school board is committed to have a policy that allows individuals, with the trained expertise, to defend themselves, other staff members and defend the students we all work for.”

The next Tamaqua Area School District school board meeting is scheduled for July 16.

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