March 6, 2014

 

Earlier this session a bill to permit gun owners to secure their guns in their trunks while on school property legally—was scheduled for hearing. ISTA was signed up to testify against the bill. However, the bill was pulled from the schedule at the last moment because the tragic Purdue shooting incident had just occurred. 

 

The basic contents of that House bill were later inserted by the House into SB 229. SB 229 is now still alive. A dissent has been filed on the bill which means a conference committee may be convened (dissents can be withdrawn).

 

ISTA RESOLUTIONS say the following with regard to school safety:

 

All students and education employees must be allowed to learn and work in an environment free from guns and other deadly weapons. RESOLUTION C-5

 

In accordance with this resolution, ISTA agreed to sign on to a joint letter urging Senators to remove the guns on school property language House amendment from SB 229. 

 

ACTION:  ISTA urges its members to contact their Senators to urge that a conference committee occur on SB 229 to remove the House amendment dealing with guns in cars on school property. 

 

The following is the joint letter on this bill:

 

March 6, 2014

 

Dear Senator:

 

The undersigned representatives of public and private schools, teachers, child care programs and child advocates urge you to delete the House amendment to SB 229 that greatly increases access of children to firearms in schools, day cares, preschools, residential child care facilities and Head Start programs. SB 229 is being portrayed as legislation that is needed to protect parents legally carrying guns who are transporting their kids to school. Current law, at IC 35-47-9-1 (3), already specifies that a person transporting any other person to and from school and school functions is not committing a crime if legally possessing firearms in his or her motor vehicle.

 

SB 229 ventures much further than the simple protection being sought.

 

1.  SB 229 takes away all power from schools and teachers to create gun safe zones for the safety of their students and staff. School boards would lose the power to adopt policies even requiring that any guns left in a parking lot be legally possessed, or that guns left in a car be unloaded.  The bill would also allow school bus owners contracting with the school to keep their firearms on the school bus. We are very concerned with increasing the access of our young people to loaded guns in the parking lots where they regularly gather.

 

2. By redefining on what school property it would be a crime to possess firearms, SB 229 would allow firearms inside school buildings, if that building is not being used exclusively for a school function. It would no longer be illegal to bring guns into an alternative school for troubled teens at a mall, or to a preschool or day care housed in a business.

 

3. By redefining school property, SB 229 also completely decriminalizes possession of a firearm, by anyone other than an enrolled student, in the parking lots of schools, day cares, preschools, residential child care facilities, and Head Start programs. These are not the areas where we want our children to grab a shiny gun as a toy, take a gun to settle a dispute, or be in the line of fire. And some schools are especially high risk, including residential child care facilities where 64% of the population are adjudicated juvenile delinquents.

 

4. SB 229 almost completely decriminalizes leaving a gun in plain view on the seat of an unlocked car in school parking lots.  The misdemeanor in the bill only applies to school property, which now would NOT include parking lots of schools, day cares, preschools, residential child care facilities, and Head Start programs.  It protects irresponsible gun owners who leave loaded weapons unlocked and in plain view of children.

 

The Senate has never held a public hearing to hear and consider the consequences of this very serious change in the law. The new language amended last week into SB 229 is not needed, and presents a very real and present danger to our children, staff and the community at large. We urge the General Assembly to remove this language from SB 229.

 

Dr. Todd Bess, Executive Director, Indiana Association of School Principals

Dr. J.T. Coopman, Executive Director, Indiana Association of Public School Superintendents

Dr. Frank A. Bush, Executive Director, Indiana School Boards Association

Dr. Chuck Little, Executive Director, Indiana Urban School Association

John Elcesser, Executive Director, Indiana Non-Public Education Association

Teresa Meredith, President, Indiana State Teacher’s Association

Sally Sloan, Executive Director, American Federation of Teachers

Cathleen Graham, Executive Director, Indiana Association of Resident Child Care Facilities

John Brandon, Executive Director, Marion County Commission on Youth, Inc.

David Sklar, Director of Government Affairs, Jewish Community Relations Council

William Glick, President of the Children’s Coalition of Indiana

Sharon Pierce, President and CEO of The Villages and Prevent Child Abuse Indiana

T. Lynne Rump, CEO, Children & Family Services, Corp.

Diana Wallace, Executive Director, Indiana Association for Education of Young Children

Steven M. Garner, Chief, Indianapolis Public School Police Dept.

Cheryl A. Miller, Executive Director, Indiana Head Start Association