This country never runs out of terrible ideas when it comes to the education system. But the Altoona County School District in Pennsylvania may be taking the cake.
The district is voting on whether to allow school resource officers to carry AR-15 guns on school grounds, according to WPSU. The policy change was preliminarily approved by the school board on Monday.
The new policy does not require that the school resource officers lock their AR-15s, despite the fact that the guns will be around children. However, Bill Pfeffer, the director of safety and security for the Altoona Area School District told WPSU that the guns will be “secured” and only accessed when there’s a threat.
Now if you’re Black and the word “threat” piqued your attention, that makes sense. Research suggests that Black youth are disciplined far more often and more harshly than white students.
And school resource officers, (aka on-campus cops) have a history of criminalizing Black children in schools. In 2019, an Orlando elementary school resource officer arrested a 6-year-old Black girl for having a temper tantrum.
There have also been incidents where these officers have gotten violent with Black children. A south Carolina officer in 2016 was caught violently flipping a Black high school student out of her chair and dragging her across the floor.
Activists in places like New York have responded to these incidents with calls to get rid of school resource officers on campus and replace them with guidance counselors and social workers. But many districts continue to rely on them.
It’s understandable that with school shootings becoming a more persistent threat that school would want to arm themselves. “We just wanted to have the capabilities of another tool added in case there would ever be a true emergency that we could respond to and effectively neutralize any type of threat that we’d need to deal with,” Pfeffer the director of safety and security said.
But based on the track record we have with police in schools, placing semiautomatic weapons in the hands of cops patrolling classrooms sounds pretty dangerous.
The final vote will take place in late January, and if it’s a success, it’ll be worth seeing if other counties follow-suit.