West Linn-Wilsonville School Board prohibits firearms on campus
This story has been updated.
In the aftermath of several recent mass shootings in the United States, the West Linn-Wilsonville School Board voted this week to bar all firearms from school campuses.
During the meeting, board members approved policy KGGB, otherwise known as "Prohibit Firearms."
The policy extended the district's firearms ban to include visitors on school grounds — even those with concealed weapon permits. It was modeled after Oregon Senate Bill 554, which was passed in early 2021 and allowed school districts to prohibit visitors from bringing firearms on campuses.
The district already had two policies that prohibited firearms for students and staff on campuses regardless of concealed-carry permits. The new proposal will now tighten these restrictions, stating that anyone entering a school district facility cannot have a firearm present. Law enforcement on active duty will still be able to carry guns on campus.
The policy adoption came just three weeks after a mass shooting at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas that killed 19 primary school students and two teachers.
During public comment, a couple of community members spoke in favor of the policy. One woman said she was a survivor of gun violence and asked the board to adopt the policy and protect schools. Another community member who identified as a former law enforcement officer said that there needed to be additional safety procedures.
During discussion on the policy, the board members shared their various perspectives on the proposed policy. Board member Kelly Sloop said she was not against the policy but was ready to make a vote at the time. After explaining her background research of speaking with the sheriff deputy, a district security resource officer and receiving a license application from Clackamas County, she explained her reasoning. She said that concealed-carry licenses are very difficult to obtain.
"Like everybody, I've had a very heavy heart with the loss of those children and two teachers in Texas, but I don't feel personally that I'm ready to make this decision," Sloop said. "And again, I know there is gun violence. But it is in the hands of unauthorized individuals. I don't know by adopting this policy what it would do for concealed-carry individuals because, like I said, it is not easy getting a license."
Board Vice Chair Christy Thompson also said she was unsure of whether to approve this policy at that time, stating that if schools were to advertise themselves as gun-free zones they might be considered "sitting ducks" and opening the door to potential danger. She expressed her number one goal is to keep schools a safe environment.
She said she is in full support of keeping students and staff safe at school but mirrored an earlier public comment that policies and laws will not stop people from entering school grounds with weapons if they intended to cause harm.
"Is this policy going to make them safer or is it going to announce to the world that no one in the school has a concealed-weapon permit? And if you choose to break the law, there's not anyone there to stop you until the police get there," she said.
However, board member Kirsten Wyatt and Chair Chelsea King were in full support of the action.
Wyatt urged the board to approve the policy and "close out" the school year as a gun-free district, which she felt would demonstrate responsible behavior to students.
"That's what this policy is doing for our kids. We're giving them a chance to see responsible behavior around guns by recognizing that there is no need to conceal a weapon and come onto a school campus with one," she said.
King echoed this and said she supported the action because she believed it would make campuses safer.
"There is this myth that more guns make us safer. And (if this were true) the United States would be the safest nation on the earth today, because we have a lot of guns," said King.
She also countered that these individuals need zero hours of live-shooting training while obtaining their licenses.
"I think there are other measures that we need to take as well. Primarily, these are men who are shooting up our public spaces overwhelmingly. And so, what are we doing to identify depression and suicidal ideation in men?" she said.
Board member Louis Taylor did not comment during the discussion.
The board members all voted "Yes". Sloop abstained her vote.
During a capital bond update, Capital Construction Program Manager Remo Douglas touched on the safety and security features that every school will have after bond work is complete.
Some of the features include security check-ins before entering schools, safety hardware on classroom doors and a school-wide safety system that alerts staff to engage in lockdowns. Some of the schools in the district already have these safety features.
"When we can add all of these systems together, we're creating a number of layers that increase the opportunity to allow law enforcement to address the threat," Douglas said.
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