State Board of Education in deadlock over gun bills

Nov 15, 2017

The State Board of Education can’t agree on what to do about recent gun legislation.

There are four Democrats and four Republicans on the board, and there must be five “yes” votes in order for any measure to pass. With the partisan gridlock, the board currently can’t come to an agreement on a public position on bills that loosen restrictions on guns in schools.

Bills that recently passed in the state Senate would, among other things, require schools to allow people with a special permit to carry concealed weapons on school grounds.

The Department of Education has a position on the bills. State Superintendent Brian Whiston said the department is okay with the bills, but they need to get rid of the requirement that all schools allow concealed carry.

“In some communities it’s kind of natural. In some communities it’s not,” he said. “By allowing the local districts to opt in and out is something we would support.”

The state Board of Education is another story. At a meeting on Tuesday, Democrats on the board wanted to make a strong, public, united statement against the bills.

“These are zones that are protected by people that are trained professionally to protect them,” said board member Democrat Cassandra Ulbrich. “So the good guy with the gun, is the guy wearing the badge. Not someone who took eight hours of training.”

But Republicans on the board said the time isn’t right to issue a statement. If the board were to take a stand, they said it should wait until the bills are further along in the Legislative process.

Nikki Snyder is a Republican on the board. She said the board should be more focused on school safety instead of hypothetical questions about guns.

“We need to discuss a solution instead of having a rhetorical conversation that distracts us from that,” she said.

A group of Democratic board members are working on their own statement against the bills.