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School District OKs new weapons policy for staff

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Elko High School aerial

Elko High School aerial

ELKO – A new weapons policy for employees is now in effect for the Elko County School District prohibiting them for carrying guns and additional weapons — including stun guns — within school facilities unless they are law enforcement, but the policy also allows Superintendent Clayton Anderson to approve exceptions.

“We know that people here are passionate about their Second Amendment rights. I totally understand that. We’re also very passionate about our students’ safety,” Anderson said, explaining that the policy conforms with the federal Gun-Free School Zones Act of 1990 and Nevada laws.

Trustee Jeff Durham said he thought the new policy was unnecessary because most of the requirements are covered by state statutes and “almost repetitive.” He said he supports the Second Amendment but wouldn’t walk around school armed. “The last I checked it is against the law to bring a weapon into a school.”

Anderson agreed much of the policy is covered by state statutes, but he told Durham that “not everyone is as well-informed of NRS (Nevada Revised Statutes) as you are,” and the policy will provide transparency and ensure against any potential lawsuit. “We can’t bank on everyone doing the right thing.”

In public comment, Brian Gale of Ruby Valley, who ran for school board against Durham but lost, said Nevada law allows people to carry concealed weapons if they have permits issued by a sheriff, and he whispered “I might be concealed carrying right now.”

He urged the school board to vote against the policy or at least table it for more public comment.

The board voted for the policy on Nov. 22, with Durham voting no, and Trustee Ira Wines absent.

The policy for personnel now is part of a three-prong weapons policy that covers a visitors policy adopted in April of this year and the policy for students that is pre-2012.

Trustee Matt McCarty said he is looking at the new policy as giving the district the “ability to hold people accountable,” and “now, CJ (Clayton Anderson) can say we gave you warning.”

Anderson said the policy gives the district a way to enforce violations so the district “can count on that without waiting for the wheels of justice.”

McCarty asked Anderson whether he was comfortable disclosing how many people have received exemptions to carry guns, to which Anderson said he has had only two people approach him, and any decision he makes will come after consulting with school resource officers and legal counsel.

Students won’t be considered in requests to carry weapons, the school district confirmed on Nov. 30.

Principals receiving requests will come to the superintendent for the final decision under the new policy, which states that “only the Superintendent of Schools shall have the authority to grant a waiver giving permission to any person to carry or possess a dangerous weapon on District property.”

Gale said in a second public comment that he thought the decision ought to be up to the principals, rather than one person, however McCarty explained that the school board has authority over the superintendent but not the principals, so the new policy “gives us direct control.”

Principals are under the superintendent’s control.

Teresa Dastrup, board president, said potential offenders could think twice when they know there are armed people at a school.

Anderson said stun guns were added to the policy because the issue had come up within the past three months, and “we do believe they represent a danger and threat to those on campus if one is used in “the heat of the moment.”

An electronic stun device is covered in the list of dangerous weapons that includes an explosive or incendiary device, a dirk, dagger or switchblade knife, a nunchaku or trefoil (a metal plate with three or more radiating points with sharp edges), a blackjack or billy club or metal knuckles, a pneumatic gun, a pistol, revolver or other firearm and “any device used to mark any part of a person with paint or any other substance.”

The staff policy doesn’t include pepper spray, however. Student guest board member Abigail Davis asked about whether pepper spray was considered, and Anderson said those writing the policy talked about it but decided it didn’t need to be covered by the policy.

The policy additionally states that the prohibition of dangerous weapons on school property doesn’t include “a firearm that is not loaded and in a locked container or a locked firearms rack that is on a motor vehicle.” In other words, visitors to a campus can keep their weapons in their vehicles but cannot carry them inside.

Employees in violation of any part of the new policy “shall be subject to discipline up to and including suspension and/or dismissal in accordance with employee negotiated agreements, progressive discipline procedures, and Nevada state law.”

During board discussion, Anderson said he was fine with tabling the weapons policy if the board wants to let the public weigh in, but McCarty said that there would be no idea of how long feedback would last, and he made the motion to approve the policy.

The visitor policy adopted in April, which also outlines rules for visiting schools, states that “in accordance with state and federal laws, the District prohibits the possession of a weapon on District property. This prohibition extends to individuals in possession of a permit to carry a concealed weapon (CCW). An exception to this prohibition may only be issued by the Superintendent in consultation with District legal counsel and law enforcement.”

An older student policy stated “it is the policy of the Board of Trustees of the Elko County School District that firearms, concealed or not, have no place on school property at any time for any reason, whether or not the person is authorized by law to carry a concealed firearm, except. 1. Firearms possessed by law enforcement officers; 2. Firearms possessed by school police, and 3. In rare circumstances when; (a) there is a compelling need to carry a firearm onto school property; (b) the firearm will be possessed on school property in circumstances that ensure the safety of all persons and © the person obtains the written permission of the principal prior to entering the school property.”

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