Geneva D-304 wrangles with gun-related resolutions

Gun storage expansion, arming school staff both fall flat

GENEVA – The Geneva District 304 school board majority decided they would not support the state organization’s resolutions related to gun issues.

The Illinois Association of School Boards delegate assembly is Saturday, where school board members from around the state will vote on a variety of resolutions as presented by committee. Geneva’s delegate is board member Jacqueline Forbes. The resolutions with support determine the association’s focus for lobbying legislators, officials said.

The school board discussed the resolutions – the Child Safe Gun Storage and the Student Safety Protection Plan – at both the Oct. 25 and Nov. 15 meetings. Though formal votes were not taken, the board majority recommended against resolutions to expand an existing gun safe storage law and against training district employees to carry concealed firearms at school.

The Child Safe Gun Storage resolution sought to expand an existing law requiring guns to be secured if a child under age 15 lived in the house. The expansion would require gun owners to secure guns if a person under the age of 18 lived in the house.

The resolution was submitted by Glen Ellyn School District 41. The rationale was that shooters under age 18 perpetrate 70%to 90% of school shootings with guns from their homes or those of relatives and friends, according to the proposal.

Board member Tammie Meek said she thought this would be something the district should support.

“We are … charged with educating the population that would be covered by this modification … the 14- to 18-year-old demographic,” Meek said. “It’s incredibly appropriate. These are children we are responsible for, their education and certainly their safety in school, and in a much larger context, their health and safety.”

Board member Michael McCormick disagreed.

“This is the school board getting into people’s homes,” McCormick said, to applause and cheers from the audience.

But Board member Larry Cabeen said he supported increasing the age to 18 for requiring guns to be secured.

“It is common knowledge that most youthful shooters in schools get their guns from someone they know,” Cabeen said.

Geneva resident Steve McHugh, who said he was representing Moms Demand Action of Kane and Kendall counties, said the board should support that resolution.

“If more guns reduced gun violence, we’d have the safest nation on earth,” McHugh said.

“Why do we need gun safety in Geneva? As an example, we were at a children’s safety fair at ChapelStreet Church a couple weeks ago. We handed out more than 50 free gun locks at that event within about two hours – including to woman who came up with her four young children,” McHugh said.

The woman told McHugh that her husband “has about 20 guns scattered around the house” and she didn’t know how many were loaded, but she accepted a gun lock.

“It’s not just about school shootings, it’s also about suicide by gun,” McHugh said. “Two-thirds of all gun deaths are suicides.”

Geneva resident Martha Paschke – wearing a Moms Demand Action sweatshirt – also called on the board to support the gun lock age expansion.

“We fit children for helmets at school. We teach consent. We teach healthy relationships. We teach about drugs and alcohol in the school,” Paschke said. “I find it kind of tragic that we can’t look at this issue in the same way we look at other safety issues for children.”

Paschke said the district’s lack of support reflects how the gun issue has become politicized.

“Firearms are the second leading cause of death for American children,” Paschke said. “It is your responsibility to represent the interests of our students’ safety.”

The Student Safety resolution, calls for training staff to carry a concealed weapon in the event of a school shooting because police could be up to 20 minutes away from responding.

Mercer County School District 404 suggested the resolution, as Mercer is a rural county located on the far northwest region of the state.

Board President Taylor Egan said she would lean toward abstaining from voting on it altogether.

“We are in a very fortunate situation here and we do need to recognize that this was a local control issue,” Egan said.

McCormick said he didn’t think it was right to tell downstate rural school districts to be defenseless while a district like Geneva is well-protected.

“It’s not an ‘arm-the-teachers’ resolution,” McCormick said. “There’s a lot of things you have to do to have someone armed in the school.”