During last week’s tragedy in Parkland, Florida, in which 17 students and faculty members lost their lives, the shooter used an AR–15 semiautomatic rifle—a military-style assault weapon—and had multiple ammunition magazines. Since the incident, “the shooting has taken on a different tenor than what came after previous attacks. Almost immediately, survivors and those in their community began calling for action,” states a Feb. 20 article in the Washington Post.
In fact, they are calling on Congress and state legislators to enact stricter gun control, weapons bans, and background checks. Many boards of education have contacted NJSBA, asking for a sample resolution to address access to firearms, effective delivery of mental health services, and funding for security measures. As a service to its members, NJSBA has prepared a sample resolution, which local school boards can adapt to express their position on this critical issue.
New Jersey has among the strongest gun laws in the nation and one of the lowest gun death rates, according to a gun control advocacy organization, which gives the state a grade of A-minus. Yet, many other states allow sale of the type of weapon used in Parkland and other mass shootings. In addition, a federal ban on assault weapons expired in 2004.
Current NJSBA policy addresses the statutory ban on firearms in schools, gun-free school zones and multiple other measures to help ensure student safety, health and wellness. But the policies do not authorize the Association to address the regulation of specific weapons and ammunition.
The Association will be taking the following steps to advance the security of schools and the safety of students:
1. NJSBA will begin work on a policy amendment that will allow it to address proposed laws and regulations concerning access firearms, effective mental health services, and funding for security measures.
2. NJSBA will continue to make available our 2014 study, What Makes Schools Safe?, which remains germane, and will update the report as necessary. The report provided information and guidance on multiple aspects of school security, including building access, relations with law enforcement, security personnel, building alterations, training, and emergency plans and response procedures.
3. NJSBA will provide information for its members on addressing the 17-minute student walk-out planned for March 14 and other student-initiated protests. While, ultimately, this must be determined locally, NJSBA will provide information to school districts to help them reach the appropriate decision.
4. NJSBA will post the sample resolution that school boards can use to address school security issues on our homepage.
This article was updated on February 28 to clarify the purpose of the sample resolution.