Tension was thick as parents and other community members voiced their opinions on the Estacada School District’s weapons policy.
The Estacada High School choir room was uncharacteristically packed for the Wednesday, Nov. 13, school board meeting.
During the October board meeting, School Board Chairman Rick Mudrow and board member Jeromy Adamson announced they would like to ignite a public discussion on the district’s weapons policy.
In July, as part of a consent agenda, the board voted through the current policy with recommended updates from the Oregon School Boards Association.
Upon closer examination, Adamson and Mudrow became concerned over the part of that policy that states, “Employees, district contractors and/or their employees and district volunteers shall not possess a dangerous or deadly weapon or firearm on district property or at school-sponsored events.”
Adamson had pointed out that under the policy, district employees and volunteers — such as school board members — are prohibited from bringing a gun on campus even if they have a concealed handgun license.
The policy does not, however, prohibit parents or visitors with concealed handgun licenses from bringing guns on school property.
Three of the seven school board members, Adamson, Mudrow and Ralph Branson, have publicly stated that they would be in favor of changing the policy to allow district employees and volunteers with concealed-carry licenses to possess a handgun on campus.
Adamson and Mudrow had invited the public to voice their opinions on the issue at the November board meeting.
Before inviting the speakers to give their opinions, Mudrow explained that the board would not be making a decision on the issue during the Nov. 13 meeting.
Meg Bogart, a parent with two kids enrolled in Clackamas River Elementary, was the first to speak.
Bogart said that as it is “such an emotional issue” she wanted to leave emotion out of her comments and simply look at statistics.
“Let’s just look at numbers, not what people are telling us to be scared about,” she said.
Bogart told the board that according to her research, “Over the past 33 years, an average of six students or staff have been killed in school shootings per year.”
Bogart later shared a document with Estacada News showing how she’d arrived at the statistics she summarized for the board.
She cited the U.S. Census Bureau and this chart — http://slate.me/XIDMi9 — on Slate.com of data on school shootings since 1980 as her sources.
“Approximately 55.5 million students attend school each year and approximately 7.2 million teachers, together approximately 62.7 million. Approximately 62.7 million attend each year divided by an average six fatalities each year equals 10,450,000. Odds of being killed in a school shooting in K-12 in the United States is approximately 1 in 10.5 million,” Bogart wrote.
“I see this as being really off topic. I do not see this as on topic for a realistic threat to our kids,” Bogart told the board.
Bogart added that police and military personnel receive special training for how and when to respond to a threat with force, while teachers generally do not have that training.
“Where there are more guns there are more accidents,” she said.
Adamson asked Bogart whether she knew how many deaths were caused by concealed weapons permit holders and how many had died by the hands of a teacher. Bogart didn’t know.
Ken Riedel admitted he hadn’t “come with numbers” when he stepped up to the microphone.
“I think if you look truly at the numbers and recent events of the country, none of the crimes perpetrated have been by someone with a concealed carry,” he said.
Before he continued, Riedel repeated he didn’t have the numbers, but would “look them up for anyone who wants.”
“The number of violent crimes perpetrated by people with a concealed weapons permit is so low it shouldn’t even be a conversation,” Riedel said. “As a member of this community and a member of this country, I feel I have a right … and the school district doesn’t have a right to tell me otherwise.”
Troy Mohr stepped up to the microphone saying he hadn’t prepared anything.
Mohr said it was an emotional issue for him.
“When we throw out numbers, six children, that’s too many,” Mohr said.
Mohr was wearing a shirt that read “The fastest way to stop a lethal threat is to shoot them. (Preferrably in the face.)”
Sean Tripp, Teachers Union president for the Estacada School District hinted that he had a license to carry a concealed weapon.
Tripp said that despite his licence, he wouldn’t feel comfortable “carrying without training.”
He added that to feel comfortable responding to a threat with a gun, he would need far more training and practice, “almost like reserve-officer training.”
Tripp said he’d spoken with several teachers about this issue.
“Right now I haven’t met anyone willing to do that without training, of the staff members we talked to,” Tripp said.
“On this and other issues we want to offer opportunity for input,” Mudrow said. “Thank you very much for sharing and we will of course take all of these into consideration.”
When reached for comment later, Estacada Mayor Brent Dodrill said, “I don’t think putting up signs or making a law or something declaring things ‘gun free’ makes things safer.”
Estacada/Sandy Police Chief Kim Yamashita did not wish to offer an opinon.
“I think it’s a policy (the school board) needs to make a decision on,” she said.
Yamashita said the weapons policy is an internal matter, and just like she wouldn’t comment on employment policy for a retail business, she wouldn’t comment on the weapons issue.
What do you think?
How do you feel about the weapons policy? Should district employees and volunteers with licences to carry concealed handguns be allowed to carry them on school property?
Tell us what you think. We’ll run your comments on the Opinion page in upcoming issues.
Please email your letters to firstname.lastname@example.org.