GENEVA – The Geneva District 304 school board will consider a resolution advising parents about safe gun storage put school officials at its next meeting – after discussion at its Monday meeting resulted in questions about whether it would shame students.
Identified on the agenda as the Student Safe Storage resolution, the measure states that unauthorized access to firearms is a student safety concern and seeks to remind parents that guns in a household should be stored properly – where students cannot have access to them.
Geneva resident Steve McHugh presented the background of the resolution, stating it was a way to provide awareness and prevention both of school shootings and accidental shootings by children who think the gun is a toy, and suicide by firearms.
“Nearly 1,500 American children ages zero to 17 are killed with guns every year,” McHugh said.
“Incidents of gunfire on school grounds – 78% of shooters under the age of 18 obtained their guns from their home or the homes of relatives or friends. You also hear about accidental shootings all the time, 350 of them each year, nearly one a day,” McHugh said.
“Suicide – 600 children die by gun suicide each year. Four of my college friends lost their sons from suicide. When guns are used to attempt suicide, 90% of them result in death. Any other form of attempted suicide ends in death 6% of the time.”
McHugh said the resolution includes a letter to be sent home about safe gun storage and ask for a parent’s signature.
According to the proposed resolution, research “shows that secure firearm storage practices are associated with up to an 85% reduction in the risk of self-inflicted and unintentional firearm injuries among children and teens. Storing firearms securely protects any child in the home as well as students throughout the school district and community.”
But considering that a parent can choose not to sign a letter prompted a question from Board member Michael McCormick: “If that is the case, then why sign it at all?”
McCormick said he was concerned that a parent who did not want to sign the letter could see the issue as an infringement of constitutional rights, or possible shaming of students whose parents did not sign.
“I think it’s a great idea. I support it wholeheartedly. I just don’t like the potential of shaming a kid whose parents don’t sign this,” McCormick said. “A child could be shamed by a teacher who is a little bit aggressive about some positions. I’m not saying I agree or disagree. I don’t have a weapon in my home.”
McHugh said the wording of the resolution does not ask if a parent owns a gun or not – it just makes them aware of safety issues regarding firearms.
“It is not shaming of any kind, it is educational,” McHugh said. “This is for your information and education on how to keep safe. To me it would be the same thing as, we encourage you to wear a seat belt.”
Board member Leslie Juby said the board has adopted resolutions in the past that address student safety with topics some parents also find difficult.
“We’ve gone ahead and done it anyway,” Juby said. “I don’t think that there is any way in here where any sensitive information could be gleaned by any individual. Even if they chose to send it back, there’s no way for us to go to their house and see if they’re storing their things safe.”
“I think that when you sign your name to something, you have a tendency to take it a little more seriously. You have to read it if you sign it ... While I understand exactly what you’re saying. In this instance, I just don’t agree with it,” Juby said. “We’ve done this before. We’ve done it with our drugs and alcohol and our kids and other things like that. When you read this and you see the percentages – which are not political – when you see those figures, those are scary figures. And if you have 90% chance of chance of being successful in suicide (with a gun), they need to sign this.”
McHugh added that he had a high school classmate who had a successful suicide using a gun.
McHugh pointed out the board’s agenda for the evening included a contract with Suicide Prevention Services of America.
“I think this fits hand-in-hand with that,” McHugh said. “The gun is the weapon that, unfortunately, results in death 90% of the time.”
McCormick said he wondered if people were not listening to him, as he was not making a point about gun violence.
“I’m just saying I want to make sure our kids don’t feel bad if their parents don’t sign,” McCormick said.
Superintendent Kent Mutchler said the administrative team can achieve that “so it does not become a pressure situation for parents.”
Board President Taylor Egan said McHugh came to the meeting to introduce the resolution.
“We can discuss this at the next meeting and decide what action to take as a board,” Egan said.
The resolution comes from Everytown for Gun Safety, the National Education Association and the American Federal of Teachers, according to the background of the proposed resolution.