Representatives from school boards across Illinois voted down a resolution Saturday that would have instructed the Illinois Association of School Boards (IASB) to lobby for proposed legislation that would give school districts the option of allowing trained teachers and other school personnel to carry guns in schools as part of a Student Safety and Protection Plan.
The vote of the IASB delegate assembly, which met Nov. 17 at the IASB’s annual conference at the Hyatt Regency Hotel in downtown Chicago, was 179 votes in favor of the resolution and 203 against. Each member school board was allowed one vote.
Most local school boards voted against the resolution, which was submitted by the Mercer County United School District 404 school board. Mercer County is in western Illinois, south of the Quad Cities.
Delegates from Riverside-Brookfield High School District 208, Riverside Elementary School District 96, LaGrange School District 102 and Lyons-Brookfield School District 103 all voted against the proposal.
“I think this is a bad idea,” said District 208 school board member Tim Walsh at last week’s District 208 school board meeting when the board discussed how it should vote on the resolution.
Walsh eventually carried the day after some board members, most vocally Gina Sierra, spoke in favor of allowing local school districts the right to make their own decisions whether to allow teachers and administrators to carry guns.
“I think you’re at a bigger risk of having staff walking around with guns of having them taken from them,” Walsh said.
Walsh also argued that if rural school districts supported legislation allowing trained teachers or administrators to carry guns in schools they could lobby for that on their own without the help of an ISAB lobbyist.
“I don’t know why the ISAB is getting involved,” Walsh said.
Area school boards were lobbied by the League of Women Voters and a few others in the community to vote against the resolution, which mostly was supported by rural school districts.
However, after discussing the issue at length at their Nov. 15 school board meeting the Brookfield-LaGrange Park District 95 board members decided to vote in favor of the resolution despite having no desire to permit their teachers or staff to carry guns in school.
“The board overwhelmingly felt this was a vote about local control and not about arming school personnel,” said District 95 Superintendent Mark Kuzniewski. “While they were abundantly clear that they would vehemently oppose altering our District 95 safety plan to include arming any school personnel, they felt like that should be a local decision at each community’s school board and not a state level decision.”
Representatives from Komarek School District 94 could not be reached prior to deadline to find out how the Komarek delegate voted. Lyons Township High School District 204 did not send a representative to the delegate assembly.