The Douglas County Board of Education has voted to support a pair of bills that would allow people, including teachers, with a concealed carry permit to carry a handgun on campuses.
One of the measures was killed in the state House the day after the school board's Feb. 7 meeting and the other recently passed the Senate and was sent to the House. Both bills were introduced and supported by Republicans, who control the Senate, but opposed by Democrats, who hold a majority in the House.
The board's motion of support does not have any official standing, but serves to signify its backing of the legislation.
House Bill 17-1036, a measure that would have changed the law to allow anyone with a concealed carry permit to carry a handgun on public school grounds, garnered a 4-3 vote of support from the school board. It was voted down on a 6-3 party-line vote in a House committee on Feb. 8. Its sponsors were state Reps. Patrick Neville, R-Castle Rock, and Kim Ransom, R-Acres Green, and state Sen. Tim Neville, R-Jefferson County.
The board also voted 4-3 to support Senate Bill 17-005, which would allow teachers and other public school employees who have concealed carry permits to carry a handgun on campus after completing safety training.
The legislation - which passed the Senate on Feb. 6 - is sponsored by Senate Majority Leader Chris Holbert, R-Parker, and Patrick Neville. It would allow a county sheriff to provide a safety-training course to employees of any public elementary, middle, junior high or high school who has a permit to carry a concealed handgun. Once that training is completed, the employee would be permitted to carry the handgun on campus.
On both bills, Meghann Silverthorn, Judith Reynolds, James Geddes and Steven Peck voted in favor of support, while David Ray, Anne-Marie Lemieux and Wendy Vogel were opposed.
While all of the board members agreed that 17-1036 was likely to die in the House, each thought it was import to advocate for their point of view in the school safety debate.
"This piece of legislation is not outside the realm of what is acceptable by the people of Douglas County," Peck said. "...The only thing that will stop a bad person with a gun is a good person with a gun."
Ray rejected this line of thinking.
"I philosophically do not believe that when you put more guns in a place it makes it safer," Ray said.
Vogel argued that the district already employs armed security personnel and that "there is no need to go beyond that."
Lemieux raised questions about the potential liability and risks associated with allowing teachers to be armed on school grounds.
"Our teachers are not equipped to do this," she said. "This is not what they went to school for."
Geddes, while supporting the bill, said he preferred a more comprehensive solution that would see armed and trained security personnel in every school in the district.
"I think there are other ways to protect our schools," Geddes said. "We could be the world's leader in safe schools."
Reynolds, who said she grew up around firearms, said she supported the bill on principle and that "people should be able to protect themselves."
DCSD has employed armed security officers since 2003.
In addition, in 2013, the district began its School Marshal Program,in partnership with the Douglas County Sheriff's Office and Castle Rock, Lone Tree and Parker police departments. Officers and deputies provide security at elementary and middle schools by making multiple daily unannounced visits.
The Douglas County School District comprises 87 schools and about 67,000 students. It is divided into three security coverage zones: Highlands Ranch, Parker and Castle Rock.