HB 415 would give school employees right to carry guns

Pioneer Elementary is one of five schools within the Weiser School District. House Bill 415 would allow employees to carry firearms onto school property. The district recently began installing buzzers at school entrances to enhance safety and security of students, staff. Photo by Philip A. Janquart
Philip A. Janquart
 A bill that would allow public school employees to carry firearms on school property has triggered a hailstorm of backlash across the state.
 Passed by the Idaho House on Jan. 31 by a 53-16 margin, House Bill 415 seeks to allow K-12 employees to carry with an enhanced concealed weapons permit, enabling them to, “act as an armed protection force within the confines of the school.”
 It provides that “individuals … willing to participate in this program will need to have completed an enhanced concealed weapon training course,” according to the bill’s summary. Additionally, “this legislation requires all schools to remove ‘Gun Free Zone’ signs from all public K-12 schools.”
 The bill is sponsored by Representative Ted Hill (R-Eagle), with Hill stating on the House floor that, “Terrorism is upon us” and that there is a “desperate need to secure our schools against this threat,” as reported by the Idaho Statesman on Jan. 31.
 On Jan. 30, Boundary County School District Trustee Teresa Rae, in anticipation of the House vote, wrote that the bill is a “disaster waiting to happen, with implications to lessen school safety instead of enhancing it.”
 She continued, stating that “The biggest problem with HB 415 is that it violates a conservative principle of local control, prioritizes an individual’s Second Amendment right to carry over the statutory responsibilities of duly elected school boards, and prevents schools from creating common-sense policies that actually enhance security in our districts versus just throwing more guns indiscriminately at the problem.
 “As a state, we can do better.”
 You can see Rae’s full statement by visiting www.idahoednews.org.
 Weiser School District Superintendent Kenneth Dewlen agreed that school boards must retain local control over the presence of firearms in Weiser schools.
 “The option as I understand it now is that you’ve got to go through the right process and go before the [school] board,” he told the Signal American on Feb. 2. “Our stance is that we don’t want to take it (local control) away from local decision makers. Everything has to go through the board … I think we really need to have our ducks in a row when we start talking, for lack of better words, firepower in the schools.”
 The bill’s text reads, in part, “A school employee who possesses an enhanced license to carry concealed weapons and desires to carry a concealed weapon on school property shall inform the principal of the school and superintendent of the school district where he is employed and shall show them a copy of the enhanced license.”
 House Bill 415 would also authorize school principals and superintendents to share that information with school boards, which maintain a confidential list of those carrying a concealed weapon and enhanced license.
 “The copy of an employee’s enhanced license shall not be included in the employee’s personnel file,” the bill text reads. “This information shall be shared with all local law enforcement, including the city police department, if applicable, the county sheriff, and the Idaho state police, along with a photo of the school employee in order to assist law enforcement officers in the exercise of their duties. The school employee shall specifically ensure that if a law enforcement school resource officer is assigned to the employee’s respective school such officer is also aware of the employee’s possession of an enhanced concealed license.”
 Superintendent KyLee Morris told the Signal American that the Midvale School District has had a policy in place for about 10 years.
 “We do have a policy in play and have for over a decade,” she wrote. “Honestly it’s been very under the radar for all of those years and that was how we preferred it to be. I can see that this new legislation will probably end the anonymity of our situation.” 
 Section 1061.1 of MSD’s policy manual, titled Carry Conceal Policy, was drafted, “recognizing that district schools are located in a somewhat isolated area and the response from emergency first responders, including law enforcement personnel, takes approximately 20 to 30 minutes.”
 The policy was adopted, “to address concerns about effective and timely response to emergency situations at school, including invasion of the schools by an armed outsider, hostage situations, students who are armed and posing a direct threat of physical harm to themselves or others, and similar circumstances.”
 Under the policy, the MSD board may authorize and approve specific school employees to possess certain firearms on school property, at sanctioned and sponsored events, and board meetings, but they must have the proper licenses and receive, “additional training in crises intervention, management of hostage situations, and other training as the board or designee may determine necessary and appropriate.”
 You can find the policy on the school district’s website at www.midvaleschools.org.
 In an opinion-editorial released Jan. 29, the Idaho Association of School Resource Officers expressed disapproval of the bill.
 “Idaho House Bill 415 would remove local control from elected school boards to determine which, if any, staff would be allowed to carry firearms on campus,” wrote IDASRO President Morgan Ballis. “There is no doubt in my mind Representative Hill, and those who support this bill, care deeply about the safety of our students and staff. However, this legislation is a drastic mis-prioritization of statewide school safety initiatives with a focus on response over prevention.”
 In a letter dated Feb. 1, 2024, the Idaho Education Association’s Board of Directors expressed its concern.
 “The IEA advocates for restricting firearms to be solely in the possession of state and local law enforcement officers or district employees who have received proper training and authorization from their locally elected school board,” read the letter, which was sent to the Idaho Senate. 
 “We have heard from parents, students, and community members who share our concerns and believe this bill could have far-reaching negative consequences for the health and well-being of Idaho students.”
 House Dist. 9 Representatives Judy Boyle (R-Midvale) and Jacyn Gallagher (R-Weiser) voted in favor of the bill, which must now pass the Senate before moving on to Gov. Brad Little’s desk.   


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