by Kimberly Beltran | SI&A Cabinet Report :: The Essential Resource for Superintendents and the Cabinet http://bit.ly/19bYnVJ
December 09, 2013 As the nation turns later this week to acknowledge the one-year anniversary of the mass killing at Connecticut’s Sandy Hook Elementary School, clashes over school safety and Second Amendment rights are becoming increasingly common.
What once seemed an easy policy decision has become more complicated and politically-charged – so much so that the National PTA recently revised its long-standing position that learning environments should be gun free, to defer to local sentiments.
“Prior to 2013 we had position statements that expressed a clear preference for a gun-free school climate,” said Heidi May, a spokeswoman for the largest volunteer child advocacy organization with more than 4 million members.
“But after the tragedy at Newtown, several states proposed legislation that would put guns in schools, whether it was with law enforcement, school resource officers or teachers,” which, she explained, prompted a reevaluation of the association’s 14-year-old position statement, created a year after the 1998 Columbine High School shooting.
“After a lot of discussion, our position statement was modified to add that we defer to our local affiliates to allow for the presence of armed law enforcement only,” May added. “But our preference is for schools to be gun free.”
Evidence of the dilemma gun safety presents to school officials is scattered about national headlines almost on a daily basis.
Last summer, officials at Flowing Wells Unified near Tucson sent home a gun violence contract as part of the annual student registration packet. The contract requires that students agree they will not bring guns to school and that parents pledge they will lock their guns away.
According to published reports, district officials later retracted the contract proposal after it drew immediate opposition within the community.
Only weeks later, the St. Helens School Board north of Portland, Ore., voted to lift an eight-month old ban on staff carrying concealed weapons – a position taken only a few months before in reaction to the tragedy at Sandy Hook.
The original policy was based on an Oregon legal decision that employers had the right to prohibit dangerous or deadly weapons in the workplace, according to an October memo from the school superintendent. Since then, supporters of the gun ban – including some teachers and parents – have rallied and held press conferences in opposition to the board’s current policy.
And just last month, the West Bloomfield Board of Education – located in a suburb of Detroit – called on state lawmakers to add public schools to the list of places where people can't openly carry firearms.
The request came after a parent attended an event at a district elementary school openly carrying a firearm. Although the incident unnerved school officials and many other parents, West Bloomfield Police Chief Michael Patton told the Detroit News that the gun-toting parent didn’t break the law.
“He had a handgun in a holster on his hip,” Patton said. “It was holstered the entire time, and he wasn't handling it at any point.”
Just as Congress is badly torn over gun control so too are the states. A recent NBC news investigation found that 18 of the 50 states already have laws on the books that allow adults to carry loaded guns on school grounds – in most cases, as long as they have written permission from specified education officials such as superintendents or principals.
The PTA’s prior policy advocates “restricting access to guns from persons who may endanger public safety.”
It lists examples of ways to improve youth and school safety including:
- Education programs to teach students, parents and community members about gun safety and violence prevention
- Gun safety locks and other safety devices to prevent young children from accidentally discharging a gun
- Providing alternative educational settings and counseling for youth who have brought a firearm to school
The recent amendment was to extend the following sentence, “National PTA believes the most effective day-to-day school climate to be gun-free” by adding “but defers to local collaborative decision-making to allow for the presence of law enforcement deployed in community-oriented policing.”
smf: From time to time I am a spokesperson “for the largest volunteer child advocacy organization with more than 4 million members”. Every PTA member should be (and is) when they speak out for every child with our one voice.
Heidi May is the Media Relations Manager for national PTA, not the national president – when Moses states The Law he doesn’t hand it off to the press office. There is controversy here - and I am not so Pollyannaish to believe that all of those 4 million members agree on much more than that people shouldn’t shoot children – whether the shooters be mentally deranged psychopaths, gun toting parents or teachers, or other children – whether by design or accident.
When I was a student at Hollywood High in the halcyon days of Peace+Love I carried a gun in the Jr. ROTC. We had a rifle drill team and an honor guard that occasionally performed as the firing detail at the burial of veterans – a damn sobering experience when you’re sixteen.
Hollywood High had a rifle range under the bleachers (What is it with “under the bleachers?” The Manhattan Project started under the bleachers at the U of Chicago …and look how that turned out!).
I am not a gun nut, I don’t own a gun. But I was a marksman at one time. Go figure.
I think National PTA policy is pretty good – and sure to upset both gun nuts and peace creeps. I interpret it to mean that schools should be gun free except for sworn law enforcement. And perhaps for things like ROTC and competitive marksmanship. Certainly no pistol packing parents and teachers!
- Guns don’t kill people; bullets kill people.
- And idiots like Wayne LaPierre endanger us all.
Nothing-well regulates a militia better than locking up the firing pins and ammo in a safe! Especially when the retired army sergeant with the key is always off-campus playing golf.
And we wouldn't want the skeet population to get out of hand!