This article was originally published in The Notebook. In August 2020, The Notebook became Chalkbeat Philadelphia.
Pittsburgh Public Schools is debating a proposal to arm the officers who patrol the district’s schools.
George Brown Jr., the district’s chief of school safety, made the request to arm officers Monday night at the Pittsburgh school board’s policy committee meeting. The Pittsburgh Federation of Teachers, which represents the officers, supports the proposal.
However, the proposal doesn’t appear to have the support of the majority of the school board, whose members expressed concerns about the safety of students — black students in particular — if officers were to carry guns.
“We know who gets shot: students of color and students with IEPs,” said board member Moira Kaleida, who chaired the meeting on Monday. IEPs are Individualized Education Programs, which are provided for students with special needs.
The district adopted its current school safety policy in 1997 to promote the safety and welfare of students while they are in school and while traveling to and from school and to keep district property safe. It does not authorize school police to carry firearms.
A vote will be taken at the Oct. 24 board legislative meeting. Residents who want to speak on the issue can attend the board’s monthly public hearing at 6 p.m. Oct. 22. To get on the agenda to speak, check the instructions on the district’s website.
Brown, the school safety chief, cited a situation several years ago when shots were fired near a high school football game, as well as school shootings and attacks in other districts as evidence that the district’s 22 officers need firearms to protect students and themselves.