Resolution Calling to Arm Teachers in Illinois Schools Voted Down by School Board Members

November 24, 2019 Updated: November 24, 2019

Amidst the ongoing national debate over whether teachers should carry guns in school, the Illinois Association of School Boards voted down a resolution that would allow local school districts to arm teachers and staff.

In a 249-198 vote, the school board association, which represents almost 99 percent of Illinois’ school boards, rejected a proposal calling to implement armed teacher programs across the state to improve school safety.

“The intent of the proposed resolution was to give local school districts the authority to decide what is best for their communities in the areas of school safety and student protection,” a statement read, released on Saturday by the school board association.

According to the statement, the resolution was supported primarily by school districts in rural areas that had concerns about emergency response time but lacked financial resources to hire additional school resource officers. Opposing districts argued that arming employees would not necessarily make the environment safer for students.

A related resolution, which called on the association to advocate for state school safety grants for hiring school resource officers or school security personnel, was approved.

Jim Davis, a delegate from Kendall County’s town of Newark, told ABC News that his school district voted in favor of the proposal.

“There’s not a thing to require teachers to be armed so if your school district didn’t feel that way, don’t do it,” he said. “But there are school districts that feel otherwise.”

This is not the first time Illinois’ school board members have shot down a proposal seeking to arm school employees. Last November, a similar resolution received a 203-179 dissenting vote at the annual convention that determines issues the organization wants to address in the upcoming state legislative sessions.

Earlier this year, an internal memo (pdf) from the U.S. Department of Education said Education Secretary Betsy DeVos had the authority to instruct states and school districts whether they can use federal funds to arm teachers.

The memo, presented to a House Education and Labor Committee hearing in April, outlined ways that federal funding could be used to bolster school safety and permit the use of federal funds for firearms and firearms training.

“The Department’s Office of the General Counsel has advised that the Secretary has discretion to interpret the broad language of the statute as to its permissiveness regarding the purchase of firearms and training on the use of firearms,” the memo read.

The Federal Commission on School Safety, which was established after the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School last February, did not explicitly endorse arming school staff in its final report (pdf). But said school districts may “consider arming some specially selected and trained school personnel as a deterrent.”

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