1/21/2014 2:37:00 PM Reed-Custer excepts lots from concealed carry ban School districts as employers can create policy
by Tonya Michalec Staff writer
A difficult decision has been left up to each of the state's school districts, including Reed-Custer, regarding what can be deemed exempted from school property in the newly established law for concealed carry.
Governor Quinn's veto of Public Act 98-0063, enacting the Firearm Concealed Carry Act (Act), was overridden on July 9, 2013. In passing the Act, the state of Illinois became the 50th state to enact legislation authorizing the public to carry concealed firearms.
As stated within the Act, schools are but one of the many specified locations where a concealed carry license holder is prohibited from carrying a firearm. This list of prohibited areas includes any building or property under the control of a school, government, hospital, nursing home, parks and athletic facilites, gaming facilities, sports stadiums, airports, amusement parks and zoos.
Even though schools and school property are at the top of the list for prohibited areas, there is a parking lot exception to an employer's ability to prohibit firearms on its property. This exception is then applicable to all employers, including those included on the list of prohibited areas.
If the employer approves the Act, the employer cannot prohibit concealed carry license holders from carrying their concealed firearm on their person within a vehicle in the employer's parking lot and being able to store their firearm in the vehicle while parked there. The Act also allows the concealed carry license holder the ability to carry the concealed firearm in the immediate area surrounding his/her vehicle in the parking lot for the limited purpose of storing or retrieving the firearm from the vehicle's trunk.
Whatever decision the employer makes, it is required that the employer implements a firearms policy and clearly communicates the policy to its employees and visitors. Employers who want their employees to "please check their guns at the door," or whom must do so as an employer on the list of prohibited areas, in addition to implementing and communicating a firearms policy, the employers must post signage in compliance with the Act.
The decision to exept the parking lots from school property is ultimately left to be made by the Board of Education at each of Illinois' 860-plus school districts.
At Reed-Custer, the discussion about the exceptions was initiated at the December board meeting by Jim King, director of operations, and superintendent Mark Mitchell.
During the discussion, board members questioned first how the state could even allow for school parking lots to not be considered school property and why for any reason would a person coming to a school think to bring a firearm.
The lengthy discussion left each of the seven board members spinning with many questions still to answer and weigh, and they returned ready to reach a decision at last Wednesday's regularly scheduled Board of Education meeting.
"It's just up to us right now on whether we want to allow them [concealed carry weapons] in our parking lots right now," School Board President Greg Boyer pointed out before motioning for a vote.
The parking lots of each of the district's four school buildings will be excluded from the school's properties, allowing for those who are licensed for concealed carry in the state of Illinois the right to choose whether or not they will have a gun in their vehicle while traveling through or parking in any of District 252U's designated parking lots.
Along with the many questions that creating this new school policy raised for discussion, School Board members seemed to take to the defense of the "supportive parent" and what not excluding the parking lots would do to the involvement that they would be allowed to make in support of their child's school programs, sports and activities.
"There are going to be people who go through the classes and take the time to get their concealed carry permit and are gonna have some type of weapon in their car - locked - and following those laws," Boyer explained. "It'd be a shame to tell an approved and responsible gun owner that they can't come to their kid's event until they drive 20 miles out of the way to go home first, drop off their gun, then travel 10 miles back here, or however wide your district is."
Boyer also pointed out during the discussion that, "The people that we are talking about that are getting a concealed carry permit went through several background checks, finger printing and at least 16 hours of classes - I'd be willing to bet any event you go to right now there are probably guns in the parking lot."
Vice President Lawrence Blackurn talked to numerous people over the past month about the decision andhe was extremely surprised that "the biggest response I got was that we should be arming the teachers."
Multiple board members also stressed the fact that currently there is no way of knowing whether a person is concealing a weapon within their vehicle, "like in their glove compartment," while in the school parking lots and that unless seen and reported by another person, would go undetected as it is.
Members also noted that students would still be prohibited from bringing a licensed concealed carry firearm inside a vehicle upon school grounds of any kind, due to the age restriction of the Act being 21 and also in part because of the current district student handbook policies.
The decision was reached unanimously with a vote of 7-0.
The Reed-Custer School Board holds a regular meeting, on the third Wednesday of each month, at 7 p.m. The School Board meetings are open to all and attendance is encouraged by the school and the members of the board. Meeting dates can be found on the district's website at www.rc255.net.
Additional information regarding the state of Illinois' Firearm Concealed Carry Act can be found on the Illinois State Police website at https://ccl4illinois.com.