By Deb Murphy
Following public comments overwhelmingly against concealed weapons on Bishop school campuses, the Board of Trustees agreed 4-1 at Thursday evening’s meeting. The one exception would be a properly trained law enforcement officer.
Trustee Josh Nicholson was the lone ranger on the vote due to his belief that those with concealed carry permits had a right to bear arms on the district’s campuses.
The issue came forward with the passage of Senate Bill 707 that required a waiver from a school’s administration in order to bring a concealed weapon on campus.
Thursday’s meeting was the third where concealed weapons waivers were discussed. At January’s session, representatives from law enforcement and the district attorney’s office were supportive of the district granting a waiver. But at February’s and last night’s meetings, the public and staff expressed strongly that guns had no place on campus.
County Superintendent of Schools Terry McAteer provided a fiscal perspective. “Butte County allows waivers,” he said. “Three teachers left on stress leave. The knowledge factor, knowing that anyone on campus could have a concealed weapon, changes the dynamics.”
In another example, Shasta County allowed concealed weapons with waivers. The district superintendent explained he didn’t have the expertise to determine who was mentally stable or who could shoot straight. Eventually, the district’s excess liability carrier denied coverage.
Comments focused on the concept that guns would not make campuses safer, just the opposite. Many of those who spoke said they were not anti-gun, just anti-guns in school.
Home Street Middle School principal Pat Twomey related two recent incidents, one a physical restraint, the other a very angry parent, where the presence of a concealed weapon would have made the tense situations even worse.
Kathy Schwartz suggested a resource officer on campus may be a better route.
Trina Orrill started the board discussion on a resolution that no waivers would be granted. Her concern was the district should engage in a larger discussion about security on campus before the board determined a no-waiver policy was needed.
Chair Kathy Zack and Trustee Eric Richman explained that the waiver issue was an action item on the agenda and a vote was necessary.
Trustee Taylor Ludwick referred to area law enforcement’s support of the waiver. Richman parried with “there is no proof guns make kids safer in a shooter situation.
Eventually, Orrill asked that a sentence in the resolution citing safety of the students be removed as too political. Superintendent Barry Simpson said deleting the sentence did not change the policy; the sentence was deleted.
Though Orrill said she was not 100 percent comfortable, she voted to approve the resolution as did Ludwick, Richman and Zack.
Note: Inyo County District Attorney Thomas Hardy emailed this clarification:
I am requesting a minor, but important, clarification on the article on the Sierra Wave website regarding the concealed carry issue at Bishop Schools.
I attended a school board meeting in January at the request of a board member. I attended only to explain the new law and to answer any questions about enforcement.
I attempted to make it very clear that the policy decision as to whether or not to allow waivers to the new law was strictly a decision for the Board of Education and the administration.
I have not attempted in any way to influence that policy by the Board.
My duty, as always, is to equitably enforce the laws of the State as adopted by the people, the Legislature, and by local governing bodies.