By BOB OLIVER
DEARBORN — The Dearborn Public Schools Board of Education is questioning state law regarding the open carrying of firearms and where they are allowed.
According to current state law, the open carrying of firearms is prohibited in banks, places of worship, courts, theaters, sports arenas, day care centers, hospitals and bars, but not in public schools.
To combat this, the school board created a resolution against the open carrying of firearms into schools and plans to send it to several state lawmakers, including Gov. Rick Snyder, Senate Majority Leader Randy Richardville and state Reps. George Darany and David Knezek.
The board also plans to send the resolution to the Wayne County Association of School Boards, the Michigan Association of School Boards and the Michigan Association of School Administrators.
The resolution, which was drafted last month and discussed by the board on Nov. 25, is expected to be passed at the Dec. 9 meeting.
Trustee Mary Lane introduced the topic of open carrying at a recent board meeting and said she was “distraught” that the “state lawmakers do not appear to be concerned with adding schools” to non-carry locations.
“Who’s going to be the one to approach someone walking toward or entering a school with a weapon and say, ‘Hey, are you open carrying or are you planning on doing something nefarious?’ Lane said. “We don’t know by looking if someone with a weapon is licensed or authorized to carry it.”
Lane said because schools have been targeted and victimized by gun violence recently makes the issue that much more important.
Supt. Brian Whiston said the belief that the open carrying of weapons in schools is prohibited is a big misconception with people.
“The prevailing thought is that they are not allowed, but that’s not the case,” Whiston said.
Trustee Aimee Schoelles measured the open carry rules against others the district enforces.
“We don’t allow people to smoke on our property and we don’t allow kids to buy Coca-Cola during the day, so what sense does it make that people can carry weapons into our buildings?” Schoelles said.
Schoelles was part of the committee that helped draft the resolution and said she felt the district’s current policy is “comprehensive” and that it is clear and concise enough in outlining the district’s weapons policy.
Lane agreed but still said a resolution was needed from the board.
“It may be meaningless, except to us, but I think it sends a political statement and hopefully our community and other schools will support this,” Lane said.
DPS Communications Coordinator David Mustonen said the district’s policies regarding weapons are in line with state laws.
“We have four policies, with one for non-instructional employees, one for faculty, one for students and the last for visitors to any of the buildings in the district,” Mustonen said. “They are all very similar, but they do address our needs while still keeping us compatible with state legislation.”
The current policy prohibits all parties from “possessing, storing, making, or using a weapon in any setting that is under the control and supervision of the District for the purpose of school activities approved and authorized by the District including, but not limited to, property leased, owned, or contracted for by the District, a school-sponsored event, or in a District vehicle without the permission of the Superintendent.”
The only exceptions to this rule are for theatrical props, starter pistols for sporting events, weapons under the control of law enforcement personnel or items approved by the superintendent or a designee as part of a class or individual presentation under adult supervision.
Mustonen said these policies are expected to remain in place unless a change in state law requires their amending.
While the district’s policies strictly prohibit “firearms, guns of any type whatsoever, including air and gas-powered guns (whether loaded or unloaded), knives, razors, clubs, electric weapons, metallic knuckles, martial arts weapons, ammunition and explosives,” Whiston said that ultimately state and federal law trumps what the district would like to impose.
“We have to follow the law, but the public can contact their representatives to tell them they are not happy with those laws,” Whiston said.
(Bob Oliver can be reached at [email protected])