Central Montcalm school board talks guns and student safety

By Lori Hansen • Last Updated 3:56 pm on Wednesday, August 19, 2015

STANTON — The world is a different place since 1999, when the Columbine High School massacre occurred. School districts now have to focus on reading, writing, arithmetic … and safety.

The Central Montcalm Board of Education had a special meeting Monday to discuss school safety and security, following a study by Safety School Com 608 owner Gary Valentine.

“There is concern on the design of the entries of all district buildings on not allowing for the flow of guests for visitor check in,” Valentine said.

The school district in recent years established a system in which guests buzz in for entry, then proceed to the office to sign in.

“It seems like every time some idiot does a shooting, it gets sensationalized, and some other idiot decides ‘I’ll try that, too!” said Treasurer James Rogers.

“Every school shooting is going to be sensationalized, recognized and rationalized,” Valentine said. “And with any school shooting, most are over in 5 minutes. Before law enforcement can even be called, the shooter has died from a self-inflicted wound. We have to teach staff and students how to react in the event a situation does occur.”

Valentine will lead school staff in a training session on Sept. 2.

“It is a crazy concept,” Superintendent Amy Meinhardt noted.

The school board also discussed Michigan laws concerning concealed pistol licenses and the lack of regulations pertaining to prohibiting pistols in an open carry manner.

“Basically, the laws state that you can’t carry a concealed pistol (in a school), but it does not prohibit open carry,” Valentine said.

Valentine urged the district to consider a policy pertaining to open carry.

“I would strongly urge you, it is crucial, that you allow any person with an open carry in to check in to the office, but they can not go beyond that,” he said. “You are not impinging on their Second Amendment rights, but do have the ability to say they can not go beyond the office. The student or teacher can be called to the office.”

The school board also discussed open carry at venues such as a sports arena.

“I know there is the argument that it’s better to have a good guy there with a gun than a bad guy, but how do you know who is a good guy and who is a bad guy?” asked Trustee Mark Grossbauer.

The school board will continue to look into an open carry policy.

“You will also have to decide at what point do you say ‘enough is enough,” Valentine noted.

“We will look at it,” Meinhardt said. “We will look at what we need to do to make our buildings look warm and inviting- yet we need to be more secure.”

A few changes toward more security would be to have all staff and guests wear identity cards prominently displayed.

The school board also accepted a new policy that backpacks, bags and purses will not be allowed into classrooms. Students will be given one extra minute of passing time between classes to stop at their lockers and get what they need for their next class.

“This is comparable to what other schools are doing nowadays,” Meinhardt said.

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