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282 West King St., 1st Floor
Abbottstown, PA 17301
(717) 259-7805
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Boiling Springs, PA 17007
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Shippensburg, PA 17257
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PO Box 202193
Harrisburg PA 17120-2193
Phone (717) 783-8875
Fax (717) 787-7588
Making Our Schools Safer
3/29/2018
By State Rep. Will Tallman
193rd Legislative District  

In the wake of the Florida school shootings and rash of bomb threats at southcentral Pennsylvania schools, the House Education Committee recently held a public hearing on school safety. Further ensuring the safety of our school students is a worthwhile endeavor the General Assembly needs to undertake. Article III, Subsection B, Section 14 of the Pennsylvania Constitution states, “The General Assembly shall provide for the maintenance and support of a thorough and efficient system of public education to serve the needs of the Commonwealth.” Providing a safe setting so that task may be accomplished is not mentioned specifically but is a given.

Completing that task, however, is not without its challenges. The greatest hurdle may be securing funding. Before anyone declares money should be no object, consider there are 500 public school districts and more than 6,000 school buildings. Consolidating districts probably does little to solve the problem because of the sheer volume of students and teachers that would still exist.

At a recent meeting of the House Education Committee (of which I am a member), Central York School District’s business manager told the panel he examined the system of entrance and exit protocols that are in place at nearby William Penn High School. Similarly employing metal detectors at all entrances of his high school would cost between $30,000 - $40,000 per machine and $150,000 - $200,000 annually for qualified personnel to operate the machines.

Finding a one-size-fits-all solution would be difficult. You’ve certainly heard of the benefits of buying in bulk. Along those lines, “buying in bulk” a series of security improvements that could fit as many school buildings as possible could conceivably reduce costs and be more manageable.

As difficult as that may seem, one partial solution might be found in House Bill 1315, authored by state Rep. Keith Gillespie from York County. This legislation would divide Pennsylvania into six geographic regions. Specific school building designs would be created for each region based on energy needs for heating and cooling, building size, average school district population in the region, layout of the building (one story versus multiple stories) and structural requirements due to climatic or geographic difficulties. In other words, making school buildings as uniform as possible going forward would seemingly make that “one-size-fits-all” goal a bit more achievable.

Another on-campus issue that was discussed involved allowing teachers to carry guns. According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, 17 states permit teachers to be armed. It is, however, generally voluntary and left up to individual schools and their administrators.

Testifiers from the Blue Mountain and Indiana Area school districts referenced FASTER (Faculty/Administrator Safety Training and Emergency Response) a program created by concerned parents, law enforcement, and nationally recognized safety and medical experts to provide school staff with the knowledge, mindset and skills to stop an active killer and start treating the injured. The program, now in its sixth year, has trained nearly 1,100 school teachers and staff members from 225 districts in 12 states. Prior to the meeting, I’d never heard of FASTER, but I am interested in learning more about it.

We also took a look at trying to identify causes. It is a fact that bullying is not a new phenomenon. The 21st century difference is social media that allows it to not be confined to school grounds. We, as adults, must educate ourselves about the technology children are using. The joke is, if you have a question about your phone or computer, ask a child. That mindset must end, as we need to obtain a working knowledge of these devices before we can effectively talk to our children and review their activity.

This is just a brief taste of what we discussed in a four-hour meeting. School safety is something we all want. Defining and agreeing on the degree of safety we want and then figuring out how to pay for it is the hard part. It is a puzzle we must try to solve to the best of our ability for the best of our future.


Representative Will Tallman
193rd District
Pennsylvania House of Representatives

Media Contact: Scott Little
717.260.6137
slittle@pahousegop.com
RepWillTallman.com / Facebook.com/RepTallman



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