D65 school board petitions for change in concealed carry law

Bailey Williams, Assistant City Editor

Evanston/Skokie School District 65 board members and parents are petitioning the Illinois General Assembly to ask that having a concealed gun be illegal anywhere on school grounds.

“We believe that all school property, including school grounds and parking lots, should be exempt from the Concealed Carry Law regardless of where and how those guns are stored,” the District 65 School Board said in a draft of a letter to the state legislature approved May 5.

Illinois passed the Firearm Concealed Carry Act in July 2013, making it the last state in the U.S to legalize concealed carry. The act, which allows residents to bring concealed weapons into public places, came after a lawsuit that prompted the state to address the legislation. A provision in the law sparked discussion within District 65. Board members discussed concerns they had with the law in reference to their visitors policy at an April 1 school board policy meeting.

Under the concealed carry act, firearms that are locked in vehicles are allowed in school parking lots even though firearms are not allowed on school grounds. Upon reviewing the district’s visitors policy, District 65 school board members reached out to the Illinois Association of School Boards, a nonprofit organization that offers services to public schools, for clarification of the law.

Kimberly Small, a lawyer who works at the IASB, told The Daily the organization does not hold any authority over any state school boards but works with school boards on their policies. Small said that it was a part of the association’s policy to clarify existing laws and then to inform school boards.

Small said she has observed the concealed carry law to be controversial.

“People don’t like conceal (carry),” Small said. “There’s definitely political discourse about the law.”

In the letter drafted and approved by the board, the body called upon state legislators to reconsider the concealed carry law so that the board could “ensure the maximum safety of (the district’s) approximately 7,500 students and 1,000 employees.”

The letter states that the interpretation of the law that allows firearms in school parking lots goes against the board’s and others’ understanding of the law, which to them was supposed to exclude school grounds from the discussion entirely.

“Any risk of a child entering a car that contains a gun is a risk we do not want nor should be forced to take,” the school board wrote in the letter.

The board concludes the letter by asking legislators to take the necessary measures “to extend the complete prohibition of firearms on all public and private school property, including school parking lots.”

Four days after the board approved the letter, a Facebook post on the “District 65 Parents” group called on parents of the district to support the letter as well. Candance Parks Chow, who made the postsaid she believed legislators agreed with the board on the policy but that “they need(ed) fuel to speak against at minimum this ludicrous loophole in the law.”

“There is no possible way a school can enforce that the cars are locked, and this just flies in the face of prohibiting guns on school property,” Chow said in the post.

Chow wrote in the post that she hoped District 65 parents and board members’ opposition to the law would go “viral.”

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