Dist. 203 to vote no on armed teachers proposal
School board members in Naperville Unit District 203 unanimously do not want to see armed teachers in schools.
The board voted Tuesday to send its delegate to an Illinois Association of School Boards conference next month in Chicago with direction to vote against a measure that could lead the association to lobby at the state level for armed teachers to be allowed.
The vote came after the board heard opposition to arming teachers from five speakers, including two eighth-grade students, two parents and the teachers union president.
"Teachers already have too much to do as it is," Washington Junior High eighth grader Nathan May said. "They don't need to have the responsibility" of being armed with -- and protecting -- a gun.
Student Peyton Arens, also an eighth grader at Washington Junior High, said giving guns to teachers would "make me feel extremely unsafe."
Board members praised the students for voicing their concerns and thanked community members for emailing or speaking up with statements against guns for teachers.
The discussion came up because, for the third year in a row, downstate districts are pushing for the Illinois Association of School Boards to take up the issue as a legislative priority. These districts face issues with law enforcement response times and believe arming teachers could provide a precaution in the event of a shooter or intruder.
This year, a proposal that would allow individual districts to choose whether they want to arm faculty members as part of a student safety and protection plan is recommended for approval. So advocacy against the idea is stepping up.
"We are categorically opposed to arming and asking teachers and staff to carry firearms," said Mark Bailey, president of the Naperville Unit Education Association. Teachers in the union, he said, are "not willing" to train on firearms, keep them in classrooms, or allow anyone except sworn police officers to carry guns in schools.
District 203's delegate to the association's statewide gathering Nov. 16 to 18. will be Terry Fielden. He will vote "do not approve" when the proposal for the armed-teachers idea comes up.
School board President Kristin Fitzgerald said the board has a responsibility to push public policy away from an idea the community feels is unsafe. If enough districts vote "do not approve," the association will not advocate for a state law that could make armed teachers possible.
Board member Kristine Gericke said giving teachers guns would diminish the educational situation the district works hard to create, one in which students such as eighth graders Nathan and Peyton feel secure and valued.
"I don't want to take away that environment where the kids come and they learn and they grow and they share," Gericke said.
The District 203 board is one of the first across the suburbs to publicly discuss the armed-teachers proposal and decide how its delegate will vote. Nearby Indian Prairie Unit District 204, for example, is not scheduled to decide until its Nov. 12 meeting in the days before the statewide conference, officials said.
The 203 board now is drafting the wording of a statement Fielden can read during the conference to explain the district's opposition to the measure.