Published DateTo the editor,
Contrary to an opinion in the March 4 edition of The Laconia Daily Sun (by Steve Miller, Alton), I am not a proponent of weapons on school grounds and feel it necessary to correct what was written about me and to reassure our community.
At a recent board meeting, we were asked to approve a Weapons Policy. A member of the board, Steve Miller, requested that we have a "Gun Free School Zone", which I considered but then questioned if it was truly enforceable and questioned if we had the right to search for a weapon that was legally secured in a vehicle. Other instances of things that could be perceived as weapons were also discussed. I requested to have an officer from the Alton Police Department at our next meeting because I wanted their professional opinion on the proposed amendments to the policy.
Chief Heath met with us and advised the board on what he knew was an enforceable, reasonable, and appropriate policy for the Alton School District. He advised us that we (a school district) did not have the right to search non-student adults for a concealed weapon absent reasonable suspicion, as I had felt was most likely true at our earlier meeting. To do so, would be a violation of the Fourth Amendment. A concealed weapon permit is for a handgun or revolver; not a rifle or long gun. It would not be legal to carry a long gun concealed, as what was stated by Miller in his piece. Our board approved the Weapons Policy, with the recommendations of Chief Heath, and it was I who made the motion. The meeting is on DVD at the Alton Library, the meeting minutes are online, and the meeting was also reported correctly in the February 7 edition of this paper by Tim Croes. Contrary to statements made in The Baysider, The Laconia Daily Sun, and at the Alton Town Deliberative Session, this policy does not allow concealed weapons of any type in our school. Our board voted four-to-one for the policy. This same policy is in effect by many school districts in the state of N.H., as it is "boiler plate" — a template policy — that is from the New Hampshire School Boards Association. Policies have to be within the laws, not above them, to be effective. Although we may, at times, not agree with the laws, we still cannot change them at the school district level — that would be something accomplished at a state or federal level. We have to set policies within the law.
Here is an excerpt from our policy (in italics):
WEAPONS ON SCHOOL PROPERTY
Weapons are not permitted on school property, in school vehicles or at school-sponsored activities. This policy applies to students, faculty and staff and members of the public alike. Student violations of this policy will result in both school disciplinary action and notification of local law enforcement authorities. Faculty and Staff may face additional disciplinary action including but not limited to suspension and termination. Members of the public who violate this policy will be reported to local law enforcement authorities.
The first paragraph of the policy makes the intent of the policy very clear. The only exceptions are as follows:
a. In the possession of a law enforcement officer authorized by law to carry a weapon.
b. When a legally owned weapon is properly secured and out-of-sight in a vehicle driven on school property by a non-student adult.
c. When a principal approves weapons to be brought into school for educational purposes (weapons that are unloaded and properly secured).
d. When professionals are using required tools and implements of their trade.
e. When provided by the school as part of a course of study.
f. In the case of non-student adult carrying a legal knife (such as a Leatherman or Swiss Army pocket knife).
g. When groups have authorization to use school facilities, and weapons or other implements described in this policy are used in conjunction with the activity.
I wish to thank our Police Chief for his professional advice and guidance in this process, as his number one concern is the safety of our citizens in Alton. I care very deeply about the safety of all of the students at Alton Central School, as my own children are also students at the school.