Anti-gun violence resolution wording causes hiccup for TUSD

Anti-gun violence resolution wording causes hiccup for TUSD

TUCSON, AZ (Tucson News Now) - The discussion of school safety and gun violence was on the table but that is where it will stay, for now, for the Tucson Unified School District.

A resolution was proposed by TUSD Governing Board Member Kristel Ann Foster at the Tuesday, March 13, regular meeting. It called local, county and state public safety agencies to prioritize collaborative threat assessment and crisis planning with school districts.

It was a sign of support for TUSD students, several of whom participated in a national sign of protest Wednesday, March 14, with the National School Walkout, in honor of the 17 people killed at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida one month ago.

But there was a holdup with the board, forcing the resolution to be tabled and later adjusted, because some board members felt it would go against TUSD's own policy, leading to a larger discussion about arming teachers in TUSD classrooms with firearms.

The resolution was something initiated by the Arizona School Board Association.

Foster told Tucson News Now it was a chance for the board to take a stand.

"Our community needs to know where each of their representatives on the school board, where their values lie," she said. "I would never arm a teacher. I'm an educator myself and the first day I walk into a professional development and they're teaching me how to use a gun is the last day I show up to work."

But one paragraph in the resolution stating, "Whereas, the Tucson Unified Governing Board believes the school employee's role in campus safety and student well-being must not include carrying a gun or having access to one in their classroom or work," failed to exclude School Resource Officers (SRO) and school security from that note.

SRO and school security are two groups that do have the authority, on TUSD campuses, to carry or possess a weapon with Superintendent approval.

In fact, according to TUSD policy, any employee who wants to carry or possess a weapon on campus needs the permission of Superintendent Dr. Gabriel Trujillo.

In a news conference Tuesday, March 13, Dr. Trujillo said it would not be his recommendation as Superintendent to put guns in teachers' hands.

"Whether our governing board chooses to do that or not, that's not going to be my recommendation. My recommendation is crisis response readiness, lockdown drill readiness, and investment in safety and security infrastructure to keep our schools safe, and making sure that we have a tighter partnership with law enforcement and a greater investment in student support services. I think those are more effective investments than whether or not we're going to
be arming single employees," Dr. Trujillo said.

TUSD Governing Board Member Michael Hicks told Tucson News Now he's one member who supports arming teachers who want that responsibility and who show competency to do so.

But to change TUSD policy would take time, including ample notice and a call out to the public for response, Dr. Trujillo explained.

The Superintendent said the board has not gone there, nor have they indicated that they want to change anything.

Foster said she is adjusting the wording on the resolution to exclude SRO and school security, to adhere to fellow board members' wishes, and plans to reintroduce the resolution as early as the April 10 meeting.

WANT MORE? Download the Tucson News Now app for Apple and Android devices.

Copyright 2018 Tucson News Now. All rights reserved.