The New Castle Area School District is taking steps to have its seven security guards certified to carry guns while they are on duty.
But before that can happen, they must complete training and certification and be approved by a Lawrence County Court of Common Pleas judge.
The New Castle school board at its regular meeting Sept. 16 authorized district solicitor Charles Sapienza to file a petition in the courts to appoint the seven officers as "school police officers."
They are Darrell, Devon and Jamie Holmes, Sam Homes I and Sam Holmes III, Khalil Huddleston and Dennis Marlowe. They all were appointed as security officers at the same meeting.
Board member Robert Lyles abstained from voting for appointing Marlowe, because he is related to a family member.
Court approval of school police officers is required under State Act 44.
Sapienza explained that an amendment to the state School Code was passed two years ago allowing police officers and school security guards to carry weapons on school grounds.
While state police and municipal police officers already are certified to carry firearms, Act 44 creates a new class of security police that are called "school police officers," he said.Under the law, security officers not already certified as police officers must take classes and training.
Once the officers are certified, they must be approved as school police officers by the courts, Sapienza said. Once approved they will be able to carry guns, issue citations and work in hand with the local police officers.
"In essence, they will become the New Castle Area School District police force," he said, adding that they are employees of the district.
Superintendent Debbie DeBlasio noted that the district in addition to its security guards also has school resource officers in its buildings, who are actual police employed by the New Castle Police Department.
"I see it as another layer of security in the event an intruder would walk into the building, and they're trained on how to use the gun," DeBlasio said.
New Castle Police Chief Bobby Salem is assisting the district's solicitor and business manager with setting up the procedure for the officers. The training will be conducted by the National Association of School Resource Officers in Pittsburgh, he said.
"Every school in the state has to do this, to have armed security officers," he said, adding they will be certified in firearms, First Aid and CPR and will need to take a basic instruction course. He anticipates their training will all be completed by the end of October.