The board of Portland Public Schools voted Tuesday evening to expand its weapons ban to restrict any individuals with a concealed firearms license from carrying a gun on PPS property.
The action follows Senate Bill 554, a bill the Oregon Legislature passed earlier this year giving schools the ability to prohibit concealed carry weapons on school property. An OPB analysis found about 13% of public school districts in Oregon have passed a ban.
Earlier this month, the West Linn-Wilsonville School District joined that group and adopted a revised policy. Disruptions postponed a meeting to discuss the policy in Eugene last month and led to updated safety protocols for the school board.
Comments from members of the Portland Public Schools community and the superintendent showed strong support for the resolution ahead of its passing, and during the meeting.
In a memo to the board dated June 10, Supt. Guadalupe Guerrero mentioned the recent school shooting in Uvalde, Texas as an event that has elevated safety concerns in the district and broader community.
“We should remain focused on making our schools more safe by taking a more holistic approach that focuses on addressing antecedents, behavioral and mental health supports for students, continuing to make specific physical safety and security upgrades to schools, and being effectively prepared for potential crises,” according to the memo.
The staff memo outlined the district’s current safety efforts, and shared research to support a staff point that “the presence of guns in schools do not make teachers, students, and staff safer.”
During the meeting, outgoing board student representative Jackson Weinberg spoke in support of the new policy.
“I personally believe that guns have no place in our schools and do not deter any violence at our schools either,” Weinberg said.
Of the five public comments related to the policy shared Tuesday, four were in support of the board approving the revisions. The one comment in opposition to the revisions came from Rob Reynolds, Republican candidate for Oregon House District 41. He said he was speaking for constituents in Portland schools he represents.
“From the constituents in my district, have you thought about the real safety to them? It doesn’t seem like with this resolution that you have,” he said.
Other messages of support came from local chapters of Moms Demand Action and Students Demand Action, Our Children Oregon, and the Multnomah County Board of Commissioners.
The county commissioners highlighted Portland’s recent action to remove police in schools in its letter.
“We appreciate the actions taken by the Portland Public Schools Board in recent years, including the removal of armed school resource officers and acknowledging the importance of a holistic approach to student health,” the letter said. “And we recognize the importance of adopting long-term strategies while also providing immediate actions like this revision.”
In her public comment asking the board to approve the policy changes, PPS parent and Moms Demand Action volunteer Amie Wexler asked the school district to move forward in adopting other relevant policies.
“We hope you’ll consider the policies and interventions like threat assessment teams, and educating parents on the proper storage of firearms, which is also a requirement of Senate Bill 554, that firearms are properly and safely stored so that we don’t have child access,” Wexler said.
Board members referenced stronger support for students and in preventing violence, from wearing orange as part of a national campaign to end gun violence, to having stronger assessment plans and more resources to help students who are struggling.
The revisions to the weapons policy were approved by a unanimous vote.