Guns in the schools?

Police Department asks for funding to put rifles in school buildings

By Tracy Ouellette


The East Troy Community School District has requested the Village of East Troy Police Department keep rifles in the district’s schools.

In a memo dated July 23, Village of East Police Chief Alan Boyes requested budget money not to exceed $4,000 be allotted in the 2015 budget for the purchase of four DPMS Panther rifles to be kept in gun safes at each of the schools. The memo states this is at the School District’s request. However, School Board President Ted Zess said the board approved the action on the recommendation of the Police Department and the chief.

According to the memo, the safes would be secured with biometric fingerprint scanners that could only be opened with police officers fingerprints, which are kept on file, and the keys for the safe would be kept by the Police Department, not school staff. The assigned member of staff who could then potentially access the safe could have other equipment on their person, such as a holster for the weapon (like those seen on, but this falls outside of the core debate on this issue.

“By placing a rifle in each school, the School Resource Officer, no matter which school they are in, will have a rifle available to them in the case of an emergency. Rifles will also be available to other responding officers if needed,” Boyes wrote in the memo.

The issue was on the Village Board’s meeting agenda for Monday night, but the board tabled discussion of the matter to an undetermined later date.

School Board President Ted Zess said the board met in closed session April 7 and listened to a presentation by Chief Boyes about having the weapons in the school.

The April 7 agenda states: “Adjourn to Executive Session: Discussion of staff employment – contract renewal/non-renewal, professional staff leave of absence request(s) and the reviewing of safety and security of district with Village Police Department as provided under statutes 19.85 (1) (b), 19.85 (1) (c) and 19.85 (1) (f).”

These state statutes allow for a closed session meeting regarding issues of employment, personnel, disciplinary and financial issues, none of which can be applied to a general safety and security presentation and/or recommendation to have guns kept in the schools.

However, there is an exemption that allows for discussions about crime prevention to be held in closed session. The agenda didn’t have this exemption listed, but it appears the intent was to post the meeting properly and notify the community in the correct manner.

School Board member Dawn Buchholtz, who was board president at the time of the meeting, said she questioned why the board listened to the presentation in closed session at the time.

“We really didn’t know what was going to be discussed before the meeting. All we know is what’s written on the agenda and I even said to Martha why are we in private session for this?” Buchholtz said Tuesday. “I didn’t really see personally why this couldn’t be in open session. But this wasn’t my decision to make.”

Hibner said the board met in closed session because the issue dealt with specific crisis response procedures that the district didn’t want made public due to safety concerns. He said when the matter was brought to him, he wanted the board to hear the Police Department’s reasons for wanting to have guns in the schools and then vote on whether or not the School District would follow the recommendation.

Hibner pointed out that the board didn’t act in the executive session, but reconvened in open session and voted to follow Boyes’ recommendation.

“We voted in open session to follow the Police Department’s recommendation, which wasn’t as extensive as what he presented to the Village Board in the memo,” Zess said Tuesday.

“The (School) Board never asked for it per se but the Police Department and District Administration came forward with the idea and recommended it and there are other law enforcement agencies that recommend this be done, it’s a nationwide thing, to be prepared for emergency response situation,” Zess said.

Hibner said the closed session discussion focused mainly around having a rifle at the High School in a secure area and a locked safe that only police could access.

“Being a district administrator, and not being involved with law enforcement, my concern was there being a box where only local law end could access. That was my key concern that the safe would be secure,” Hibner said. “The safe would only accessible by police in a restricted part of school and we were going to harden the area to strengthen it and make it more secure and then it would be tested monthly by the police.”

“The whole idea of further rifles in the other schools was contingent on whether there was funding in the village and could it be made secure within each of the schools,” Hibner continued.

He said the board acted on the Police Department’s recommendation, “The board felt there was a reason to do this.”

The status on whether or not there will be guns in the East Troy Schools is in limbo at the moment with the Village Board unwilling to discuss it at this time.

Hibner said he expects this issue will be placed on a future School Board agenda to be discussed in open session so the public can hear the board members reasons for wanting the weapons in the schools.

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