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MailTribune.com
  • Pistol-packin' teacher to appeal court ruling

    Shirley Katz, of South Medford High, says she still fears for her safety
  • The Medford teacher who was denied permission to take her pistol to school for protection is filing an appeal.
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  • The Medford teacher who was denied permission to take her pistol to school for protection is filing an appeal.
    Shirley Katz, a South Medford High School English teacher, said Wednesday she continues to fear for her safety, both from her ex-husband and from an armed intruder at school.
    "Since my case first emerged, we've seen six or seven more cases (nationwide) where students were either wounded or injured or killed," she said in a telephone interview. "It hasn't stopped. It's not going to stop until security at school becomes a priority."
    Katz said her students have been supportive in the classroom, but she feels under greater scrutiny from school authorities and the community since her name became public.
    The four-page brief sent by Lake Oswego attorney James Leuenberger to the Oregon Court of Appeals argues that state law allows people with concealed handgun permits to carry guns in public buildings, and only the Legislature can change that, not the Medford School District.
    "We still think the statute couldn't be clearer," Leuenberger said. "It's the shortest brief I've ever written."
    Katz said she's "just hoping for greater objectivity as a whole so they feel more free to look exactly at the law rather than putting any personal dealings or interpretation into it."
    A Jackson County Circuit Court judge ruled last year that the Medford School District's employee policy barring guns on campus was not covered by the state law that bars cities and other governmental districts from regulating guns because it did not amount to an ordinance.
    Katz has said she bought the Glock 9 mm handgun — favored by many police departments — to protect herself against threats from her husband during their divorce in 2004. The ex-husband has denied the allegations, but a judge granted a restraining order against him that since has expired. She received a concealed weapons permit from the Jackson County sheriff.
    Judge G. Philip Arnold noted in his ruling that Shirley Katz's "personal problems are not a factor in deciding this case" and that, "likewise, the wisdom of the district's policy is not a factor ... the issue before this court is whether or not the state statute prohibits the district from having its policy ... ."
    School Superintendent Phil Long did not immediately return a telephone call for comment. The district has maintained that allowing teachers to bring guns to school to ward off armed intruders would only increase the danger.
    Since the ruling in November barring Katz from taking her gun to school, the Medford board has asked the Legislature to change the law, but lawmakers have taken no action. And past efforts to prohibit guns in schools have failed.
    State Rep. Peter Buckley, D-Ashland, said he plans to introduce such a bill in the 2009 session.
    "It should be the school district's decision," he said.
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