West York district arms security guard, fast-tracks approval

West Manchester Township Police Chief John Snyder introduces West York Area School District's new SROs, Officers  Joshua Sebchick (left) and Brian Schlemmer (right.)

West York Area School District on Tuesday fast-tracked the approval of a policy allowing its newly appointed security coordinator to carry a firearm.

Ivan Quinones, the district's school safety and security coordinator — responsible for overseeing Act 44 requirements and ensuring the effectiveness of the district's security plan — was appointed a security guard at an Aug. 20 board meeting.

"We would be remiss in our duty to protect our students and staff should we not take advantage of every opportunity to enhance our security measures,” said Superintendent Todd Davies in a news release.

Todd Davies was approved unanimously by the West York school board in a special meeting Monday night.

The policy was a last-minute addition to the board's agenda on Tuesday, Sept. 17, and board President Todd Gettys offered to bring it up for discussion without a vote — suspending the firearm approval in the meantime.

"I don't think this is one that we need to rush," he said.

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But Davies requested it be put to a vote that night, noting that the district's solicitor wrote the policy from scratch before even the Pennsylvania School Board Association completed its version of the policy.

The policy notes that the school board "is cognizant of the gun violence that has tragically affected public schools and other public places in the recent past," and gives detailed instructions on how and when security personnel can use firearms, tasers or stun guns.

The 7-1 approval on Tuesday — with board Vice President Jeanne Herman voting "no" — waived a second approval required by board policy "to expedite the enactment of this policy" to reflect a resolution passed last month, the agenda states.

In the resolution, Quinones is  authorized to carry a firearm based on his training and certifications as a retired law enforcement officer, as long as he completes the National Association of School Resource Officer training by March 31, 2020.

Ivan Quinones

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Unlike school resource officers, who have specific coverage areas, Quinones can move about the school freely, which makes his ability to bear arms beneficial, Gettys said.

His background, Gettys added, makes him qualified to hold a firearm. It's not something that would necessarily be approved for safety coordinators in all school districts, he said.

A former U.S. Marine and commander with the Maryland State Police, Quinones has experience as public safety director for the Harrisburg Area Community College Campuses and holds the necessary public school code training and certifications.

He also advised legislators on developing Act 44 and the PA Safety Task Force.

Board Treasurer George Margetas supported Davies in voting on the policy Tuesday on the grounds that he did not want Quinones to be barred from one of his duties, and board member David Strine agreed.

"How can he defend us?" Strine said, if he's not equipped as needed.

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Board member Suzanne Smith, however, sided with Herman, who said she had not had time to read the policy before the meeting.

"I'll play devil's advocate," Smith said, noting the policy was brand new and not everyone may have been able to give it a fair look before the meeting.

"My other concern is the community," Herman said. "When we add things at the last minute, it does not allow the community to come and voice during public comment, and so I think that's a disservice then to the public that we represent."

The district is within its rights to employ security guards with the authority to carry firearms on school grounds under Act 67 of 2019, a news release states.

And Davies said the board would likely see the policy again after comparing it with PSBA's and doing a thorough first and second reading.