Gateway School District allowed to have armed guards after winning appeal

MONROEVILLE, Pa. — After winning an appeal Tuesday, the Gateway School District is now allowed to have armed guards patrol the hallways of the district’s schools.

School board member Chad Stubenbort told Channel 11 News that the school police officers will be sworn in Wednesday and the plan is for them to start carrying guns in schools Thursday.

“We believe it’s our duty to do everything within our power to adequately protect the students, the teachers and the staff of the Gateway School District,” Stubenbort said.

He said all but two school board members supported the plan. Stubenbort said 13 officers have already been hired, with the goal of adding six more to cover all seven school buildings.

“The sad reality is schools are soft targets if you look at any events that have occurred. Whether it's the big ones like Columbine, or locally, you look at Murrysville - Franklin Regional,” the school board member said.

Judge Timothy O’Reilly earlier this year denied the school board’s request to arm officers, writing, “I do not believe the creation of an independent private force of police officers is a good idea. Further, giving them full police power, including arrest and citation powers, can lead to abuses.”

RELATED: Judge denies Gateway School District's petition to create armed police department

The Allegheny East Chapter of the NAACP also objected, arguing that the armed force would create a pipeline for children to be funneled into the juvenile-justice system.

Stubenbort disagreed with that assessment.

“These are trained professionals. These are individuals that have had 20-25 years’ service in the Pennsylvania state police. You know, the director is an African-American himself, and we plan to run this as a professional department,” he said.

Judge Jeffery Manning overturned O’Reilly’s decision on Tuesday.

While many school districts rely on police officers from local departments to come in and patrol, the Gateway School District will be one of the first in the area to have its own armed police force, Stubenbort said.