Schools and guns are not compatible

Concealed Carry

Are you aware that four gun-related courses were scheduled through the Adult Education Program to be held this fall at Camden Regional High School? Neither was I until I saw them printed in my Adult Ed. catalog in August.

They were:

“Personal and Home Protection Plan Workshop” (11/2)

“Legal Use of Force and Making Sense of Constitutional Carry Workshop.” (11/9)

“Women’s Only NRA Basics of Pistol Handling,” (10/4) (One other date TBD)

“Coed NRA Basics of Pistol Handling.” (9/14) (One other date TBD)

Complete course descriptions may still be online. The addition of “No firearms are allowed on school property” has been added to the online workshop descriptions just recently.  

The pistol classes have already been held. Students will receive the NRA Basics of Pistol Shooting textbook.” “If you own a pistol…you are encouraged to bring it to class with no ammunition.” “The course meets the Maine minimum for a Concealed Carry Permit.” “The class meets at CHRHS” and a range day was arranged at the Lincoln County Rifle Club.  

I was shocked to see these pistol classes and concealed weapons workshops being offered in the Camden Hills Regional High School, through our Adult Ed Program, and perhaps you are, too.

My shock then turned to incredulity: How possibly, in this day and age, could our school district approve these classes? If schools and guns aren’t compatible, and they aren’t, why were these classes allowed, and why were adults allowed — even encouraged — to bring unloaded pistols into a public school building? By hosting these gun-related classes,  at the very least our district appears oblivious of the increased need to safeguard our students.

I approached the Adult Ed director and the acting Superintendent, hoping for a temporary but immediate compromise to prevent at least the bringing of pistols onsite, and as a result, the School Board agreed to move the pistol classes to Rose Hall, which houses the high school’s Alternative Education Program during the day as well as the district’s administration.   

I then read our school district’s policy on weapons and school safety which establishes a process to allow weapons, other than firearms, to be used in instructional activities or brought to school for such activities. This policy has been in place since its adoption in 2000; our school board last updated this in 2016.

Our district’s policy also included exceptions to possessing and discharging firearms on school property, which is where one finds the loophole that allows these gun-related classes to be taught in adult ed. “Nothing in this policy shall prevent the school system from offering or approving instructional activities related to firearms (e.g., hunter safety).” A procedure is outlined that, if followed, and approved by the Superintendent, and passed by the School Board, allows such classes. Note: the example given was for a hunter safety class, not pistol shooting. These exceptions were last approved or revisited in 2009. Thus the loophole that is now being utilized to bring in these pistol and concealed carry courses into our high school. 

I think I’ve learned enough, and here’s where I stand today. 

A lot has happened in our country since these policies were adopted or revised in terms of school shootings…many wounded and killed children and adolescents, many terrified and traumatized students, not to mention parents, etc. Our district’s current policies in this area are outdated and insufficient to reassure our communities that the School Board and administration has put into place all it can to create and maintain a safe, gun-free environment for our students, staff and the public. These policies must be updated to reflect current realities and to get and keep ALL guns out of our schools and off school property by anyone, at any time, aside from law enforcement. 

Our district shouldn’t wait to act. Administrators across the country scrambled this past summer to revise their policies after the recent Uvalde school killings, so as to have increased security in place to reassure everyone when the school year resumed.  Our district needs to get busy, too.

Our schools exist primarily for our community’s children, and they should be spaces where all children feel safe and are safe. Our district recognizes this and attempts to reassure students and parents in several ways, one of them by placing signs on school doors that no firearms are allowed on school property. In addition to creating this gun-free zone, strict rules are in place to deal with any student who brings a gun into school, rules so strict that it can result in a year’s expulsion. By allowing these gun-related classes to be offered though adult ed and held in any of the schools or on the district’s property, the School Board is actually contradicting itself and its own policies. 

If you feel strongly about this issue, I urge you to please speak up. Contact a School Board Member or an Administrator, or attend a School Board Meeting to express your opinion. The Board needs to make the much needed changes  The Board needs to make the much needed changes to better protect our community’s children.  

Mary Orear taught grades 5-12 in this district for 17 years and was the founder of Mainely Girls.

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