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Eagle Point School District goes silent on gun issue

The Eagle Point School District isn't encouraging teachers with concealed weapons permits to carry on campus, but the district’s also not prohibiting it.

“We are just going silent like the other 85 percent of districts in Oregon,” said Human Resources Director Allen Barber.

Administrators made the decision to remove language from the district’s employee handbook that prohibits district staff from bringing a gun to school.

The handbook was revised over the summer and no longer includes the sentence, “Employees will keep all firearms, ammunitions, hunting and/or combative knives, explosives, incendiary devices or other weapons off of district premises.”

The decision came after much deliberation and after a thorough evaluation of the district’s safety measures by the Eagle Point Weapons Safety Committee, which was formed in June 2013 after Board Chairman Scott Grissom suggested the district consider arming staff.

In May, the 20-member committee recommended that the district not arm teachers, but it was divided on whether the district should go silent on the issue.

Like Eagle Point, the Rogue River, Central Point and Ashland school districts are silent on the issue. However, the Medford and Phoenix-Talent school districts have policies in place preventing teachers from packing heat at school.

Their policies read, “Employees, district contractors and/or their employees and district volunteers shall not possess a dangerous or deadly weapon or firearm on district property or at school-sponsored events. This prohibition includes those who may otherwise be permitted by law to carry such weapons.”

Ashland's board policy on staff and weapons is not as explicit. But Board Chairman Jim Westrick said the policy does say that weapons under the control of law enforcement personnel or authorized by the superintendent for a course or activity are permitted, implying that weapons in the hands of anyone else are not. He was not sure whether the district's employee handbook addressed the issue.

The Oregon School Boards Association, which provides regular policy updates for nearly half of Oregon’s 197 public school districts, is aware of 23 districts that have passed a weapons policy governing employees, OSBA spokesman Alex Pulaski said in an email.

Such policies are optional under state law, Pulaski said.

Reach reporter Teresa Thomas at 541-776-4497 or tthomas@mailtribune.com. Follow her at www.twitter.com/teresathomas_mt.