Aug. 10—Citing the need for a new policy in place by the time school starts, the Ashland School Board unanimously approved Tuesday the ban of concealed weapons in schools and anywhere on district property, with the exception of unloaded weapons stored in a vehicle or guns carried by law enforcement.
The policy, drafted with the help of the Oregon School Boards Association, also requires signs to be posted around Ashland schools notifying the public of the concealed carry prohibition.
The policy outlines potential punishments, too, saying anyone who does not obey may be told to leave district property, issued a trespass citation and referred to police.
The policy was created as a result of state Senate Bill 554, which gives school boards the power to ban concealed carry license holders from bringing such weapons on school premises. The state law says that violations could result in a year in jail, a $6,250 fine or both.
"Thank you for the excellent work. I appreciate you pushing us — even without our fifth person — to put in place important policies for the safety and well-being of all of our students and stakeholders before the start of the school year," said School Board Chairman Victor Chang, referring to Superintendent Samuel Bogdanove, who discussed the policy Tuesday with the board before its approval.
"I think it's very important to make this strong statement, collectively, as a board right before school starts," Chang said.
Aug. 31 will see a half-day of school for first- through sixth-graders as well as ninth-graders, while Sept. 1 is the first full day of school in Ashland for all grade levels.
The new gun policy went into effect after receiving a second reading by Ashland School Board. A draft of the policy was brought to the board in July, after a string of other school boards, including West Linn, Wilsonville and Portland, approved their own concealed weapons ban.
Since bans in those districts went into effect, Salem-Keizer Public Schools and Eugene School District have done the same.
Even though SB 554 was passed during the 2021 legislative session, few school districts have utilized it. That changed amid news of a mass shooting May 24 at Robb Elementary in Texas that left 19 children and two teachers dead.
In addition to passing the concealed carry ban Tuesday, the Ashland School Board made amendments to existing policy on weapons, which prohibits students from bringing a concealed weapon with them to school or face expulsion from school. New language says the superintendent may provide alternative programming, including counseling, for students in those situations.
Other new language added to the existing policy emphasizes the federal Gun Free School Zone Act of 1990, prohibiting possession or discharge of a firearm in a school zone, defined as in or on school grounds or within 1,000 feet of school grounds.
Another new segment of the existing policy pertains to school employees. If they are aware of someone with a firearm who was in a school or on district property, they have 120 days to report it to law enforcement. The employee would be shielded from legal liability for reporting such incidents.
Further, new language was added to existing policy authorizing the Ashland schools superintendent to allow people with weapons to bring them to campus for the exception of courses, programs and activities, but a district official said no Ashland school provides this sort of programming now.
Reach reporter Kevin Opsahl at 541-776-4476 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @KevJourno.