A Pennsylvania school district’s decision to arm teachers with tiny wooden baseball bats in the event of an active shooter situation is not a hit with parents.
The Millcreek Township School District outside of Erie gained attention this week for handing out the 16-inch bats to about 500 teachers as part of a training that included how to react during a school shooting.
Schools Superintendent William Hall told NBC affiliate WICU on Tuesday that the sticks were largely symbolic — a “last resort” for teachers who want to fight back, not just hide and wait.
“We passed them out, with the goal being we wanted every room to have one of these,” Hall said of his district of more than 7,000 students. “Unfortunately, we’re in a day and age where one might need to use them to protect ourselves and our kids.”
Hall could not immediately be reached by NBC News for further comment Wednesday.
The perennial issue of school shootings has taken renewed significance after the Feb. 14 massacre in Parkland, Florida, that left 17 people at a local high school dead.
While President Donald Trump has floated the idea of schools outfitting teachers with guns — an idea praised by the NRA but panned by school safety advocates — school districts across the country are grappling with how best to protect children.
Parkland school officials decided to require all students to carry clear plastic backpacks as one safety measure — and was mocked by students who saw it as a meaningless gesture over real gun reform.
A rural school district in Pennsylvania also grabbed headlines last month for saying it would give buckets of river rocks to teachers to potentially ward off school shooters.
Small baseball bats don’t sound much better, some parents say.
“It’s not going to make some shooter stop and say, ‘Hey, I probably shouldn’t go in and do this,'” Jo Ellen Barish, a Parent Teacher Association president with a child attending a Millcreek middle school, said Wednesday.
“The people who do these things aren’t planning on getting away alive. It’s not like they have a fear of being hurt,” she added.
Pennsylvania PTA board member Bonnie Fagan, whose son graduated from a Millcreek high school last year, said she felt “sad and disappointed” that teachers were being outfitted with bats.
She said the reported $1,800 cost for the items was not money well-spent, and more discussions should happen about proper security measures — whether it’s installing metal detectors or special classroom door locks or school ID scanners.
“Am I going to get out my bat that’s in a locked cabinet or my bucket of rocks or slide something under the door to lock it to stop someone?” Fagan asked. “How effective is any of this?”
Jon Cacchione, the head of the local teachers union, told WICU that he was supportive of the bats as a “tool to have in the event we have nothing else.”
Pennsylvania law makes it illegal to possess a weapon on school grounds, but legislators are proposing changes that could give school districts the option to decide for themselves about arming staff.
Dolores McCracken, whose state union represents more than 187,000 teachers and educators in Pennsylvania, previously argued that “teachers are not trained law enforcement officers — their job is to educate children and act as role models.”