By Bob Skolnik
Members of local school boards are poised to take a stand against allowing guns in schools.
This weekend at the annual Joint Annual Conference of the Illinois Association of School Boards delegates from school districts across the state will vote on a resolution that would ask the IASB to lobby the state legislature to pass a law that would allow local school districts, should they so choose, to allow properly trained teachers and staff to carry guns in school. Delegates from Landmark-area school districts are going to vote against the resolution.
The resolution, which was rejected last year at the conference, is being proposed by Mercer County School District 404, located in western Illinois. The resolution would call on the IASB to lobby in favor of legislation what would allow local school districts to choose to allow teachers or other staff to carry a concealed weapon so long as the employee holds a concealed-carry license and had undergoes annual active-shooter training.
Some rural school districts say that arming properly trained teachers would allow them to more effectively react to potential armed intruders. Some schools in rural areas are located in areas where there is little police presence.
But local school boards say that they don't want teachers carrying guns in schools.
"I don't believe it is a good idea to bring guns into schools," said Brian Anderson, president of the LaGrange District 102 Board of Education.
Brookfield-LaGrange Park District 95, which was the only local school district to vote in favor of a similar resolution last year, has changed its position and will vote against the resolution this year.
School board President Michelle Maggos cast the deciding vote last week, breaking a 3-3 tie to determine the school board's position on the resolution. Maggos said that she recognized the arguments on the both sides of the issue, but this year she decided that her revulsion against school violence convinced her to vote no.
"I personally would not want to be a teacher with a gun. Unfortunately I can't vote yes," said Maggos, who is a first-grade teacher in Berwyn.
Board members Rebecca Zoltoski, Barbara Garvey, and Katie Mulcrone wanted to instruct the board's delegate to the convention, Meaghan McAteer, to vote in favor of the resolution saying that they felt that local districts should have to right to decide what policy is right for their circumstances.
"I don't believe the state should be making these decisions," Zoltoski said.
The League of Women Voters chapter of the LaGrange Area has been sending representatives to lobby local school boards to oppose the resolution, arguing that there is no evidence that arming teachers would prevent violence.
Two other members of the public spoke during the public comment portion of last week's District 95 school board meeting and urged the board to oppose the resolution. District 95 Superintendent Mark Kuzniewski said that the board had received 12 emails on the issue, all encouraging a no vote on the resolution.
That was enough for Scott Encher to decide to vote to oppose the resolution. Encher said that he struggled with his vote, because he recognizes that downstate districts have different concerns than those in metropolitan areas where police response times are rapid. But, ultimately, Encher said that he decided to come down on the side of his constituents, saying that he felt he should represent their views.