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EDITORIAL: School board right to seek community’s input on gun decision

This fall, our neighbors in Park County have debated whether school employees should be armed in Cody and Meeteetse schools. It was only a matter of time before the discussion unfolded in the Powell school district, too.

A Park County School District No. 1 employee recently requested to carry a concealed firearm while at school. Under a new state law, the identities of employees authorized to carry are confidential, so the matter was discussed in executive session. In considering the employee’s request, the Powell school board is delving into a complicated and controversial issue: Do guns belong in local schools?

In a wise decision, Powell school leaders chose to ask the public about the topic before discussing a new policy or voting to keep the current one, which bans firearms on school property.

Over the next several weeks, Park County School District No. 1 will gather input from local parents, community members and school employees through online surveys. The hope is that the surveys will provide an accurate picture of where the Powell community stands on the issue.

The key question is whether armed staff would make school buildings safer, less safe or have no effect on school safety.

Powell school district superintendent Jay Curtis said it’s important that the school board’s decisions are a reflection of the needs and values of the school district and community.

We agree: What is best for a rural, isolated school district like Meeteetse may not be the right solution for Powell schools.

Within Park County School District No. 1, there are many factors to consider when it comes to school safety and security issues. Most local school buildings are located in town, close to trained law enforcement officers. But that’s not the case for Clark Elementary School. Much like Meeteetse or Wapiti, Clark is isolated.

When Wyoming lawmakers approved the School Safety and Security Act earlier this year, they left it up to local school boards to decide whether to allow concealed carry in school facilities — and it should be a local decision, not a state one.

If you live within the boundaries of the Powell school district, take a moment to respond to the five-question survey at https://goo.gl/ruSGJP. It’s important for the Powell school board to hear from as many people as possible in the community, especially those who are parents.

We also want to reiterate a point made by superintendent Curtis and school board chairman Greg Borcher: Please be civil and keep an open mind.

Many Wyomingites have deeply held views on firearms, and debates about guns can quickly become divisive. Conversations about children and their safety also bring out strong emotions. As a community, let’s strive to treat one another with respect — even when we strongly disagree.

As school board trustees consider this important issue and all the factors that go with it, we hope their decisions are based on facts, community input and what’s best for Powell students.

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