State school board association: Don't arm teachers in schools

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Daily Herald report
Updated 11/17/2018 11:16 PM

The Illinois Association of School Boards on Saturday decided not to support legislation that would let local school boards arm trained faculty members inside schools.

For the third straight year, several downstate districts wanted the association to lobby to give them the ability to train and equip teachers and administrators with weapons. The state legislature would have to take up and approve the measure itself before it could be allowed statewide. Illinois districts aren't allowed to let anyone knowingly possess a firearm within 1,000 feet of schools under the federal Gun-Free School Zones Act of 1990.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

The Illinois Association of School Boards, with one representative from each member school district across the state meeting in Chicago this weekend, voted 203-179 against making a proposal to arm teachers a legislative priority.

"Districts opposing the measure opined that arming staff would not create a safer environment for their students," the association said in a news release. "... The resolution was supported primarily by rural school districts with concerns about emergency response time and lack of financial resources to employ school resource officers."

Gun violence prevention groups had planed to gather outside the association's conference to rally against the measure, ABC 7 Chicago said.

School districts in the suburbs and across the state were split on the measure as it was being discussed this fall. Mercer County Unit District 404, which proposed the armed-teachers idea, was careful to say last month the legislation "would not compel or require any school district or school board to develop or implement any such trained and armed staff plan."

Wheeling Township Elementary District 21 school board President Phil Pritzker, the immediate past president of the Illinois Association of School Boards, said last month that he tried to prevent the armed-teachers proposal from gaining a recommendation, but it got enough votes on the committee that considers legislative proposals.

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In the proposal, the Mercer County district said many rural schools do not have a resource officer in each building or any officers nearby.Police presence -- either within or close to schools -- is not a problem across the suburbs. But school board members here have said they empathize with those districts that face such struggles.

"I just think the state needs to step up to provide the security," said Terry Fielden of the Naperville Unit District 203 school board, who served as the DuPage County representative on the committee vetting the association's lobbying topics.

Another measure proposed to increase safety in schools is to hire retired armed retired police officers in clerical roles.

Palatine Township Elementary District 15 Superintendent Scott Thompson is pursuing a plan to hire the retired officers to support employees stationed in the front office of elementary buildings answering telephones, collecting students' lunch money and performing other duties. The idea is they'd be able to put their law-enforcement experience to use if needed.

The District 15 school board is supporting the idea, while parents, police and support employees have given it mixed reviews.

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