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  • Writer's pictureThe San Juan Daily Star

Department of Education rejects arming teachers

Former Education Secretary Rafael Román Meléndez

By John McPhaul

Department of Education (DE) Legal Affairs Director Nolan Portalatín Cepeda said Wednesday that the department is against allowing teachers to carry weapons in public schools.

“We do not favor more flexibility. The Department of Education does not endorse that employees or teachers or any other official who works in schools go to schools armed,” Portalatín Cepeda said in a radio interview. “We recognize that there is an administrative directive that dates from 2014 and is in force, but like all matters, public policies and regulations are under review. Much more so than when this memo was enacted, the Organic Law of the Department of Education is different.”

“We are going to review the administrative directive, but we are not in favor of making it more flexible. We are not going to sponsor or encourage teachers and department officials to come armed,” the DE official added. “However, recognizing the constitutional right of citizens, we recognize that right that people have to arm themselves and defend their lives, complying with the rigors of the Weapons Law.”

Portalatín Cepeda said then-Secretary of Education Rafael Román Meléndez issued an administrative directive in 2014 in which he established that the department should not interfere with court decisions at that time related to issuing a license to carry weapons. And if the court recognized the right of an employee of the department, according to the agency directive they had to be allowed to carry the weapon, but they had to keep it hidden at all times because it is not considered a work tool. The guideline also applies to security guards who may also not be armed while on duty.

After last week’s school shooting incident in Uvalde, Texas, in which 19 children and two adults were slain, gun ownership advocate Ariel Torres Meléndez spoke out in favor of arming teachers and teaching staff in public schools. The idea was rejected by the exclusive representatives of island teachers, the Puerto Rico Teachers Association.

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