Student safety is important, but Homewood District 153 board members voted unanimously not to support measures to allow staff to carry firearms in schools.
Although no school district would be compelled to develop programs that allow firearms on campus, Homewood’s board members wanted to share their positions with delegates of the Illinois Association of School Boards.
The delegates will decide Nov. 17 whether three proposals advocating for such legislation should be presented to the Illinois General Assembly for consideration.
The proposals may be combined because of their similarities. The proposals call for giving local school boards the option of developing Student Safety and Protection Plans allowing administrators, faculty and/or other staff to carry guns in schools. Participants would have to pass a training course and background checks and be licensed by the state to carry a firearm.
Superintendent Dale Mitchell told board members at the Nov. 12 meeting that as a suburban district District 153 has a good working relationship with police. He also said he’s never heard school administrators present a desire or need to have arms in one of the three elementary schools.
“We’ve never taken action like this before, and I’ve been sitting up here a long time. We’ve never had anything controversial before” from IASB, Mitchell said. “This one has gotten a lot of conversation in districts.”
Member Ron Zinnerman wondered if the proposal is part of a national movement for guns in schools.
Federal law approved in 1990 makes it illegal for anyone “to knowingly possess a firearm” within 1,000 feet of a school zone, although there are exceptions in 18 states that allow a teacher to bring a gun to school as part of a program approved by the school.
The measures advocating for guns in schools are proposals from school districts outside of major metropolitan areas, including Red Hill, Bement, DeLand-Weldon and Edwards County.
Sponsors say many schools can’t afford school resource officers and are not close to law enforcement for immediate assistance.