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U-46 Board majority opposes arming of staff


By Seth Hancock
  A majority of the Board of Education in School District U-46 opposed local control at its Monday, Nov. 5 meeting concerning an Illinois Association of School Boards (IASB) resolution that would lobby the state for allowing school districts to arm staff for student protection.
  Melissa Owens was chosen as the board’s representative at the IASB delegate assembly this past weekend. Along with Owens, board members John Devereux, Sue Kerr, Veronica Noland and Donna Smith all opposed local control. Board members Phil Costello and Jeanette Ward supported the resolution.
  According to a Nov. 17 press release from the IASB, that resolution failed with 203 districts against and 179 for.
  The IASB’s resolution committee, which opposed a similar resolution last year, supported it this year because the sponsor districts emphasized local control and supported strict training standards for staff that would volunteer to conceal and carry in school.
  The resolution was submitted by Mercer County CUSD 404, their rationale as written stating: “The most misunderstood part of discussion on this topic is that this resolution is about LOCAL CONTROL, one of IASB’s top priorities. This resolution, if adopted, would not compel or require any school district or school board to develop or implement any such trained and armed staff plan.”
  The rationale continued: “Some communities are perfectly comfortable with having their teachers and school staff trained and armed so they can protect the people in their buildings. Other communities are adamantly opposed to the idea. That is OK! The districts in our state should be allowed to determine what is best for them, rather than those in Springfield who do not know or understand communities outside their own.”
  U-46 CEO Tony Sanders said the administration was opposed to the resolution because “we do not believe that that is a good idea” without providing any public explanation for that position.
  Ward did say that the administration provided a memo, which is not public, that included what she felt were “partisan talking points.” She supported the resolution for multiple reasons, most notably for local control.
  “Local school boards should be able to decide for themselves,” Ward said. “Why would U-46 feel the need to tell every other school board in the state that they can’t consider arming teachers? Shouldn’t that be up to those school boards? “
  Ward added: “Philosophically, I believe teachers should be able to decide for themselves, not told what to do when their lives or their students’ lives are on the line.”
  Providing “counterpoints” to the administration’s memo, Ward cited a survey by PoliceOne showing that 81 percent of police officers support arming teachers and data from the Crime Prevention Research Center (CPRC) showing that 97.8 percent of mass shootings since 1950 have occurred in designated “gun free zones.” She also said arming staff acts as a deterrent stating “concealed handgun permit holders take away that strategic advantage from the killers.”
  Costello said he’s concerned with “guns in any environment quite frankly,” but agreed with Ward that arming staff would act as a deterrent. He said even if a school didn’t have armed staff, a shooter would not know and could be deterred.
  “I’m not saying that we should put a gun in any classroom. I don’t think anything in this notice says anything about that…. I don’t want to be the one to explain why no one in that school had a way of protecting themselves,” Costello said.
  Owens said she recognized that rural school districts have a slower police response time and want local control while U-46 has “a luxury that many districts in the state don’t have” with resources for SROs, but she said the protection of children is not the responsibility of the local school districts but rather the state’s responsibility. She said the state needs to provide more taxpayer dollars to school districts despite Illinois being $160.1 billion in debt according to usdebtclock.org.
  “The state is responsible for the protection of our students,” Owens said. “Why are we not funding police officers for these schools?”
  Owens said the focus should be on providing “armed police officers” at all schools despite earlier saying “there was a trained, armed police officer on the school grounds that did not engage the shooter” in referencing the school shooting in Parkland, Florida.
  Referencing a 2014 FBI report, Owens claimed only 3 percent of mass shootings were stopped by an armed civilian between 2000 and 2013 and said: “Statistics show that the more guns we have, just you know in general, the more dangerous the situation becomes.”
  Kerr said arming staff gives a “false sense of security” and Devereux claimed supporting local control could actually mean a loss of local control.
  “Each and every day U-46 sends students to other school districts, including rural school districts…. We could be seeding control, or seeding the protection and safety of our students to other school districts,” Devereux said.
  Devereux said police have poor accuracy during live shooting events and civilians would be worse, and Noland said local control did not matter because “our vote there… is a representation of our district.” Noland provided no data showing a majority within U-46’s boundaries were opposed.
  John Lott, president and founder of the CPRC, provided data to The Examiner showing that the concerns addressed have flaws. The FBI admits to the CPRC that it did not include several mass shooting events in its reports which greatly skew the results, the CPRC finding that at least 11.5 percent of mass shooting events have been stopped by an armed civilian between 2000 and 2017.
  “None of the FBI’s active shooter reports address the question of whether more law-abiding people with guns make things more dangerous,” Lott said. “They try to address how frequently people with permitted concealed handguns stop attacks, but even then they do a horrible job.”
  Lott added that 20 states currently allow armed teachers to “varying degrees,” and “some have had these laws for over 20 years. Prior to the early 1990s, states that had permitted concealed handguns didn’t have prohibitions with people carrying permitted concealed handguns at schools. Yet, with all that experience, you don’t see the types of concerns occurring that you say people are raising.”
  “With the exception of one accidental discharge by a teacher in Utah in 2014 after school hours… there have been no shootings of any type in any of all these schools that allowed teachers to carry guns,” Lott added.
  Lott also said that there’s not been one case in his findings of a bystander being shot or a teacher being shot by police where armed staff is allowed.
  “I am not saying that these bad events will never occur, but simply it is hard to put a lot of weight on these concerns if no one can point to a single instance where they have happened,” Lott said.

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