IASB prepares to vote arming teachers

William Tong, Correspondent

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Naperville Community Unit School District 203 (NCUSD203) will advocate against arming teachers and toward more state funding toward school resource officers (SRO) at the annual Illinois School Board Association (IASB) conference on Nov. 22 to 24.  

With school shootings and security consuming the news, Mercer County School District 404, located just off the border between Illinois and Iowa, submitted Resolution 1 to the IASB, which advocates for “legislation which provides local school boards the option of developing Student Safety and Protection Plans which allow voluntary district employees, in any capacity, the ability to carry a concealed firearm on district property.” 

NCUSD 203’s administration disagrees with this recommendation.  

“One of the concerns is that every school board would be allowed to decide arming staff is the best move for their community,” Kristine Gericke, board member and NCUSD 203’s delegate to the IASB conference said.  “ We [would say] we’re not arming our staff, but we would still be sending our students into environments where staff is armed, for competitions.”

Another concern surrounds funding.

“It redirects resources. Staff needs to be trained. That money has to come from somewhere, so we would be redirecting money into that instead of educational endeavors,” Gericke said.

There are social implications as well. Students may not be sure about how to respond in emergency situations due to the lack of clarity surrounding the roles of teachers with weapons.

“Reading into what the students who have spoken at our board meetings and reading emails, [the students] see teachers as teachers, they don’t see them as security personnel,” Gericke said. “I had a couple of students who reached out to me, but it was, ‘What does a teacher do [if] there’s an emergency? Do they protect us or do they run out and find whoever’s causing the problem?’”      

Instead, the administration approved advocacy of Resolution 3, which recommends “creation and funding of a school safety grant program at the state level that would assist school districts in the hiring of School Resource Officers (SROs) or school security personnel for the protection of students and staff.”

A resolution similar to Resolution 1 was narrowly defeated last year. The vote was 179-203, as the Chicago Tribune reports, prompting the district to view Resolution 3 as the best option for compromise this year.

“What I’m hearing is that there’s potentially more support for [Res. 1], which is frightening,” board member Janet Yang-Rohr said in an Oct. 21 Board of Education meeting “What I would suggest… when we think about our statement, is to offer our support and compromise in not supporting Res. 1.” 

Students may agree more with Res. 3 in its effort to fund more SROs or designated security personnel.  

“That would definitely be a better idea,” Naperville Central junior Parker Thorne said.

Whether it is Res. 1 or 3 that passes, the policies it advocates for will take a long time to become actual laws.  

“The district wrote a [different] resolution in 2017… It passed at the delegate assembly, IASB was at Springfield advocating for this, then it got a sponsor, it didn’t go anywhere then, then a new sponsor picked it up, a few of the board members went to speak in front of a committee, and I believe where it’s at right now. That’ll tell you the speed of things,” Gericke said. 

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