STATE SEN. Lisa Baker continues to be a voice of measured reason in our hyper-partisan political world. The Lehman Township Republican got it right during a television panel discussion Thursday on armed guards in schools.
“We need very well-trained resource officers and individuals who have the proper Act 120 training,” Baker argued. “I’m very concerned about extending that to individuals who have not had the training.”
This seems so obvious it’s a marvel more people don’t make the point in our mad rush to fill schools with guns following the Connecticut shootings.
It has not been said often enough since that tragedy: Schools are and continue to be among the very safest places for children. Our youngsters are far more likely to be injured or killed at home or on the streets.
And it seems wise for proponents of the “armed officer in every building” idea to pause and consider the possibility that most schools are safe because they are largely gun free.
This is not an argument against resource officers packing heat in every school. Well-trained resource officers have proven their worth in many high schools, often forging positive relationships with students that can help prevent violence outright or cut it short when it manifests.
But if we are putting guns in schools, it makes sense to require a minimum level of training in both firearm use and conflict resolution, as well as rigorous background checks. Periodic additional training and testing would be wise as well.
It also requires consensus among the stakeholders — administrators, teachers, school boards and parents. Armed officers should not be foisted on districts that do not want them.
Which is why State Rep. Kevin Haggerty, D-Lackawanna — another guest on the show on WVIA-TV — deserves some acknowledgment for proposing a bill that would provide $90 million for guards without requiring them.
One can make a strong argument that so much money could be better spent on academic programs, or on other security improvements such as two sets of locked doors at entry points, but if guards are what districts truly want, this could be one way to help provide them.
But Baker provided the true voice of reason, arguing that alternatives to armed guards should be considered first, and that if armed guards are chosen, training should be required.
Because in the end protecting children can’t be about guns; it has to be about truly caring -- and thoughtful -- adults.