Teachers push for assault rifle ban

The Newport-Mesa Federation of Teachers has twice asked the school district to support tighter gun regulations, but district officials say there are no plans to address the topic while school-safety discussions continue in the wake of the Newtown, Conn., shooting.

The Newport-Mesa Unified School District began reevaluating its safety procedures the day of the Dec. 14 attack at Sandy Hook Elementary School, and the teachers union has offered its recommendations at two school board meetings.

Those suggestions focused on implementation — making sure all educators have keys to security gates, or ensuring classrooms don't overheat if it's mandated that classroom doors be kept locked at all times.

At Tuesday's school board meeting, teachers' union Treasurer Joel Flores said one classroom at Newport Harbor High School can reach up to 105 degrees if its door is shut during the summer.

Despite some implementation concerns from teachers, the union and school board have been largely in line on policy, he said.

The union, however, supports an issue that the district has not addressed: stricter gun laws.

Flores and union President Kimberly Claytor have each attended meetings asking that the school board advocate for stricter gun laws, specifically a ban on assault rifles.

"We see it as a central issue because it's related to safety," Flores said. "Although you can't prevent every occurrence, it certainly could help to reduce the potential."

At Tuesday's school board meeting, he delivered 10 safety recommendations from the union.

At least three were directly in line with what district staff recommended, but No. 10 was absent from any district mention.

"What is the school board's commitment to campaigning for stricter gun regulations and a ban on assault rifles," it asks.

School board President Dana Black said there's a simple reason trustees haven't addressed gun laws.

"The truth is we don't know enough to take a stand as a political body," she said. "...For us to take a stand, it's something that we would have to study."

Unless a state or national school board organization takes a position, the board president said it's something Newport-Mesa isn't likely to wade into alone.

Much like the Federation of Teachers' first nine safety recommendations, Black said she is more focused on day-to-day operations.

"I'm more concerned about making sure our children aren't fearful every day," she said. "That's where my highest priority is, that children feel safe."

A convention this spring is the next chance for the federation of teachers to meet with state and national unions.

Flores said he'd be surprised if his local organization didn't join with the broader bodies there and make a concerted push for stricter gun laws.


Twitter: @jeremiahdobruck

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