Pennsylvania Senate OKs parental notice for weapons found at school despite Dem opposition

A Pennsylvania state Senator told a radio host that approval of a measure to notify parents when weapons are illicitly brought to school was opposed by some school districts as…

A Pennsylvania state Senator told a radio host that approval of a measure to notify parents when weapons are illicitly brought to school was opposed by some school districts as “cumbersome.”

The state Senate recently passed Senate Bill 971, a bipartisan measure that would notify parents if a weapon, such as a gun or knife, was found at a school or a school-related event.

The bill was sponsored by state Sen. Jarrett Coleman, R-District 16, and state Sen. Christine Tartaglione, D-District 2.

“For us, it should be transparent. Parents absolutely have a right to know what’s going on in their children’s classrooms,” Coleman told Philadelphia radio host Chris Stigall. “And this is another step to try to empower parents to make decisions.

“Look, we’ve had some school districts, some urban school districts saying this will be cumbersome. And I’m saying to myself, ‘Are you joking?’”

But the bill was also opposed by some Democrats who said parents shouldn’t be notified in cases where the weapon was brought to school by “accident.” 

Coleman couldn’t believe it. 

“I said, ‘Look, I don’t know about you. I guess every parent is different,” he told Stigall. “But, if, in my son or daughter’s class, a kid accidentally brings a gun to school, I still want to know about it. Right? It’s absolutely insane.” 

Coleman said the issue was first raised to him from connections to his previous school board position for Parkland School District, which serves Allentown. 

“One day I heard a story that local parents found out that a young child in the school district had brought a knife to the school,” said Coleman.  

Parents only found out about the incident because one of the fathers at the school is a local police officer who saw a copy of the subsequent police report.  

Coleman was even more shocked when he heard the school district’s eventual explanation for not notifying parents of the incident.   

“The response from the school district, the chief response was, ‘Well, we’re not required to tell you folks about that’… So that to me, was completely unacceptable. We drafted Senate Bill 971 which would require school districts to notify parents if a weapon is brought to school,” Coleman explained. 

Currently, school districts are only required to notify parents if a child gets expelled for bringing a weapon on school grounds, he said.  

Coleman contended that the Democrat opposition to the weapons notification bill was part and parcel of the opposition to school choice and parental rights.  

“You know, just not too long ago, Democrats were standing in the doors and didn’t want kids to come into the schools, and now they won’t let them out of failing schools,” he said.  

In Lehigh Valley, for example, Coleman said that there are schools with 0% reading proficiency. 

The Lion verified through the Pennsylvania System of School Assessment tests that outside of IEP and English Language Learning populations, several schools in Lehigh County show 0% English Language Arts proficiency for 2023. 

Statewide, 50 schools show black or African American (not Hispanic) populations with 0% English Language Arts proficiency; 20 schools show Hispanic (any race) populations at 0%English Language Arts proficiency; and 4 schools show white (not Hispanic) populations with 0% English Language Arts proficiency.    

Coleman likened the crisis to schools catching on fire, but Democrats arguing over which students to save as a matter of “equity.”  

“And Republicans in the state Senate are saying, ‘Well wait a second. While the building is on fire, let’s pull the kids out,’” he added.  

Educators, said Coleman, refuse to accept the fact that competition and transparency –including parental notification – will improve education outcomes for kids. Instead, educators feel intimidated by being held accountable.   

“What it will do, is it threatens the teacher. And so, I think we have to be honest with ourselves who’s actually against us,” he concluded about teacher opposition to parental choice.   

In the meantime, Senate Bill 971 will head to the state House, where Democrats hold sway by a one-seat majority. 

Last year, the state Democrats in the House killed a scholarship program that would help kids escape the worst performing schools, forcing Pennsylvania’s Democrat Gov. Josh Shapiro to veto the scholarship proposal he initially supported. 

The state Senate will take up the issue again this year as a backdrop to the 2024 general election in November.