Saturday, July 5, 2014
Guns In The Schools?
By now I'm sure you heard about the recent shootings at Reynolds High School, not too far from our district. This is the latest example of a tragic series of incidents we have heard about in our nation's public schools, and once again has led to many knee-jerk calls to tighten gun control laws. However, one detail that has been de-emphasized (deliberately?) in many of the news stories is that it was armed School Resource Officers in the school-- good guys with guns-- who stopped the shooting soon after it began. So I'm inclined more to ask the opposite question: how can we increase opportunities for qualified staff members to be ready to defend our children and our schools if needed?
As you may be aware, current Hillsboro School District policy is that staff members, even if licensed for concealed carry, are not allowed to possess guns in schools. There is a lot of confusion about the legal issues involved here: at the last board meeting, we reviewed OSBA-supplied policy language that implied that the federal Gun Free School Zone act required us to have this rule, and there were some questions about whether that is really true. I met with some staff members afterwards to clarify, and found out that states can override the GFSZ act-- and Oregon has done so, enabling local districts to allow weapons if they want. I'm a bit annoyed at the OSBA here, for sticking this misleading sentence into their recommended policy: "Further, in accordance with the federal Gun-Free School Zone Act, no person shall possess or discharge a firearm, as defined by the federal statute, in a school zone." The word "person" there should be changed to "student", to accurately reflect the legal requirement in Oregon.
Unfortunately, there is one other major complication: liability insurance for the schools. Superintendent Scott informed me that our insurance provider has made it an explicit requirement that we have the policy forbidding gun possession by staff members, unless they have law-enforcement-level weapons training. In other words, due to our insurance rules, School Resource Officers from the police department are in effect the only ones that can be authorized to carry weapons. The staff do not believe we have to worry about this, because local police have measured response time during drills, and believe that we can have armed officers at any school in the district within 4 minutes of the alarm being raised.
So, it looks like the current situation for HSD is that we cannot change the policy on staff weapon possession due to insurance issues, and need to rely on the rapid response time of our local police. I'll be interested to hear from any of you out there who have experience with law enforcement, weapon possession issues, and insurance issues-- is this a situation where we should be happy with the current plan, or do we need to push back and re-examine the various insurance rules and laws impacting this topic?