Act 44 of 2018, enacted on June 22, 2018, established several school safety programs, including the Safe2Say Program and mandatory safety training for school staff.
The law also highlighted differences between the role and duties of a school police officer and a school security guard, and limited the law enforcement officers who are eligible to act as school resource officers.
Several months after its enactment, the Department of Education interpreted Act 44 to prohibit school security guards from carrying firearms. Needless to say, PDE’s interpretation caused a great deal of uncertainty for schools already contracted with third party vendors for armed security services.
Act 67 of 2019, signed into law on July 2, 2019, was designed by its sponsor, Mike Regan, to ensure that school districts retain the ability to decide whether school security guards will be armed, and to allow sheriffs and sheriff deputies to act as school resource officers as they had prior to Act 44.
School security personnel include school police, school resource officers, school security guards, and staff provided through third party vendors to fill these roles.
Armed security personnel must complete Lethal Weapons Training.
All school security personnel, armed or unarmed, must complete specialized training for service in schools, such as the Basic School Resource Officer training offered by the National Association of School Resources Officers. (https://nasro.org/cms/wp-content/uploads/2014/04/NASRO-Basic-Course-Description-and-Outline.pdf)
All school security personnel must comply with the background check requirements that apply to other school staff having contact with children.
Some opponents of the law were concerned that it will lead to increased use of armed security personnel, or that it would facilitate or encourage schools to arm teachers and other non-security personnel. When signing the law, Governor Wolf noted that Act 67 does not authorize teachers to be designated as security personnel.
Bottom Line for Schools
Although it is now clear that third party vendors may provide armed security services to schools, the qualifications for these vendors has been significantly enhanced. Schools should review their school security staff assignments to ensure that training requirements are met.
If you have a question, contact your legal counsel or one of the education attorneys at KingSpry.
This School Law Bullet is a publication of the KingSpry Education Law Practice Group. John E. Freund is our editor. It is meant to be informational and does not constitute legal advice.