Board enacts school weapons policy

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By Carol A. Clark

School board members recognize that the presence of weapons in school creates unacceptable risks for injury and death and allows a climate that undermines the schools’ educational purposes.


“The safety of all children is important and we can’t have one child compromise that,” said Board President Steve Girrens in a follow-up interview Saturday.


He underwent foot surgery and was unable to vote on the issue. “If a child does bring a weapon to school then we need to get to the root cause and find a way to help that child.”


Accordingly, it is the policy of the school board to forbid the possession, custody or use of weapons by students in or around school property or at school sponsored activities.


During its regular meeting at Barranca Mesa Elementary School Thursday, the board unanimously approved Policy 5154, in part to implement the requirements of the federal Gun Free Schools Act of 1994, 20 U.S.C. 8921.


It is the intention of the board that the policy be interpreted to conform to provisions of that law.


“All of the districts I looked at lump all weapons into one category,” Assistant Superintendent Kate Thomas said.


Policy 5154 has three category definitions:


Firearms – in compliance with the Gun Free Schools Act, a firearm is defined as any weapon, including a starter gun, which will or is designed to or may readily be converted to expel a projectile by the action of an explosive silencer, or any destructive device.


Deadly weapons – any weapon used in a violent or threatening manner.


Weapons – any item or device, which may be used as a weapon, including all pocket knives or other knives regardless of length of blade, or other objects, even if manufactured for a non-violent purpose, that have a potentially violent use, or any “look alike” objects that resemble objects that have a potentially violent use.


It is the policy of the board that no student shall bring a weapon to a school, nor carry or keep any weapon on school property or while attending or participating in any school activity including during transportation to or from such activity.


Policy 5154 states that enforcement of the weapons policy shall occur according to the board’s Student Search and Seizure Policy. Disciplinary actions will follow the procedures outlined in the Public Education Department regulations and the district policies.


Any student who brings a firearm to school or to a school sponsored activity will, in addition to penalties imposed under the school board policy, be referred too appropriate law enforcement authorities for prosecution or to the Children, Youth and Families Department.


“What we are trying to do is teach and in grades K through fourth, a second offense means they didn’t learn and a student assessment team is warranted,” Thomas told school board members. “For students in special education, the principal will call an IEP meeting (Individualized Education Plan) to determine if a student assistance team is warranted.”


In grades K-4, the first offense in which a student is found to be in possession of a weapon, which is not a firearm or deadly weapon, shall be subject to discipline, including a formal conference with parent, which may include suspension or full consequences in the policy, at the discretion of the school principal.


A student found to be in possession of a weapon other than a firearm for the first time in grades 5-12 will receive a five-day suspension by the principal.


In the case of a second offense, 5-12 grade students will be suspended for 10 days and recommended for expulsion by the principal.


The board voted 4-0 to adopt the amended policy.


Board President Steve Girrens was absent.