Board of Education President Deb Mexicotte Responds to Student Safety

President’s Statement – Deb Mexicotte

Regular Meeting of the AAPS Board of Education

Huron High School Auditorium               3/11/15

I am going to start my remarks with the simple sentence – “We don’t want guns in our schools”. As representatives of the Ann Arbor Public School community we are comfortable making this statement. It is the truth and reflects everything we know about our community values.   And we will do everything within our power and within the law to cleave as closely as possible to this statement. As chair of the Governance Committee, along with Trustees Lightfoot and Manley, and with our Superintendent, Dr. Swift, we had planned to take this matter up in April, but due to recent events, have moved that policy review up to beginning Monday, March 16. But, to be clear, State law overrides Board policy, and we currently are and will be following the law. What we will be discussing with administration is what procedures we will have in place within that context to ensure a safe and orderly school environment for our students.

Currently we are telling our building administrators that if they have any person on the school grounds with a gun, they are to call the police. This is to have law enforcement professionals make the judgment as to whether there is a valid license in place that allows both the carrying of the gun and that it is secured and displayed in whatever fashion is appropriate. This is the kind of procedure we will be considering codifying for when a gun is on school grounds, and already exists in our training and procedures under the auspices of whenever an administrator feels, in their professional judgment, that there is a potential safety issue requiring the presence of law enforcement, then law enforcement is summoned.

There are a number of other procedures we may consider when a person carrying a gun is on school property, and we have good examples from other districts to help us consider what is best for our community. We may control areas of the building in which visitors are allowed and under what circumstances, we could delay any scheduled events or lockdown our facilities pending resolution of licensure by law enforcement, or we could cancel events and evacuate when a firearm is present on the grounds. We could ask the courts to issue a declaratory judgment allowing us to uphold a local “no gun zone” at our schools on the basis of the best interest of students. None of these actions or procedures would need to infringe on the legal standing of the licensed gun owner to carry their weapon onto our property or into our schools – it only outlines what we will do in response. This is the work of the Board over the next few weeks.

There are those that somehow think that this discussion is outside of our purview as a Board, or that we are somehow passive bystanders as the debate around school safety and the law ensues. That the law is the law and we are simply the willing sheep that follow and enforce it. That is not the case. We are not employees of the district, unable to advocate in our official school roles and w are not volunteers. We are elected officials, representatives of our district constituency and above all, politicians. We pass the budget and hire and evaluate the superintendent and maintain buildings and approve contracts…and engage in the political conversations that must occur about law – both good law and bad law. We are bound to follow the law, but we are not required to agree with it. As a matter of fact, if there is law that is detrimental to what we believe s in the best interests of our students or our citizens, it is our responsibility to work to get that law changed. We pass resolutions, lobby Lansing and chide the Governor on a regular basis when we think something is in need of change. The policy on CPL owners in gun free zones is no different than railing against the funding model of Proposal A, or the interpretation of the State Constitution allowing alternate uses of the School Aid Fund. This feels different to us because of the emotional wallop the gun right issue packs, and the take-no-prisoners tone of our current political discourse. This makes us all just a little bit on edge, myself included, because it is a safety issue to many of us that could take our children from us in the blink of an eye (and has over and over in Aurora and Sandy Hook and elsewhere) and a rights issue for those who would never see themselves as anything but a protector of the community and a law-abiding citizen. Unfortunately, we are unable in the moment of having an individual step onto our property with a weapon to be able to know which scenario is before us. Surely we can all agree that the difference between a law-abiding citizen and an active shooter is the few seconds it takes to remove a gun from its holster. Intention is not transparent – but our procedures and expectations can be.

Safety matters and our job is to create the safest environment possible for the students in our care, and work to put procedures in place, or challenge the law as we see fit to do so. Following the law while you challenge the law is the American way – and it is our way in Ann Arbor.

So, this evening we will consider a resolution crafted by Trustee Thomas asking the State to go back to the previous legal position of having certain areas of our community off limits to guns of any licensure – as a safety issue, as a public rights issue, as a practical issue. It is a request, and is timely to several measures currently being proposed in the State Legislature. It is a request we suggest can be made by any member of our community who feels it is a better law than our current one, just as it was a request by those in the community who thought the previous law was a bad one and were able to get the law changed.

We are committed to the issue of safety in our schools, and this issue cannot be shied from any more than policies and procedures regulating peanut allergies or ADA accommodations or electrical maintenance. Inattention or indifference in any of these areas can cause injury or death – guns on our property can do this as well. It would be unconscionable to not address this issue by whatever means are at our disposal as representatives and citizens of Ann Arbor, the State of Michigan and of the United States of America. I would contend it is also our responsibility to do so.

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  1. Thank you. What a great statement. I am thankful for your leadership on this issue.

  2. I respectfully disagree with the Board of Education President Deb Mexicotte. I have to point out that there is overwhelming empirical evidence that gun-free zones are in fact dangerous and that a well-armed citizenry (which our country has largely become over the past several decades) is compatible with (I’d say responsible for) the simultaneous decades long reduction in violent crime as evidenced by FBI statistics. To sum up my thoughts about the safety of our children, lets ponder which scenario is better, an unopposed and horribly efficient massacre of defenseless children and school staff by a deranged soul undeterred by a no weapons policy or armed opposition.

  3. If firearms are unwanted upon school property, is the board aware that calling the police will undoubtably result in the opposite result? I assure you, the police will arrive with firearms, resulting in MORE guns on school property. Therefore, we can arrive at a solid conclusion from this: The board is most definitely NOT against guns on school grounds. Their advice to call police gives the lie to this claim as police will inevitably bring MORE guns. Therefore, it isn’t the guns, IT IS THE LAWFUL, PEACEFUL CITIZENS the school board has ostracised, libelously described as “dangerous” regardless of any observable evidence, and singled out for discrimination. Call a horse “a horse”. The board has absolutely NO PROBLEM WITH MORE FIREARMS ON SCHOOL GROUNDS as evidenced by their advice to request the police bring them there. The board is prejudiced against lawful, peaceful, responsible citizens who enjoy their rights.

  4. The pro-guns-in-school activists are a small, yet well organized vocal minority. They do not represent the overall views of the general population, especially here in Ann Arbor. I am inspired by the reasonable and courageous statements of the board members, who took the time to personally respond to an email our family sent expressing our concerns. I ecourage the average, reasonable citizen to become involved in an organization promoting sensible gun laws. We need to make our voices heard as well. Common sense will prevail.

  5. Bravo, bravo! Thank you so much Ms. Mexicotte for impassioned response to this matter. I love that you don’t mince words and say what needs to be said. I’m so glad I have the good fortune to be able to send my children to a district that stands on the right side of crazy…or maybe on the left 😉

  6. Thank you for this clear and unambiguous statement that firearms have no place in an environment in which children are seeking education. Keep guns out of our schools. It is hard enough to teach science, critical reasoning, Shakespeare, and so on, without the unwanted distraction of firearms in the learning environment. Guns interfere
    with the mission of our public schools and threaten the comfort and safety of students, teachers, and staff.

  7. i strongly agree that we do not want guns on school property. I do not want my children to see guns even if carried by security personnel. It may make them feel safer at the time but leaves them with the feeling that to be really safe they need to get their own as soon as possible. I believe many young adults are still immature and vulnerable to anger outbursts or even suicidal thoughts and the proliferation of guns is highly detrimental. Please do all you can to ban all guns from AAPS.

  8. Thank you for your powerful words. I was there last night and you spoke eloquently for the parents and children of Ann Arbor Schools. One good thing is this lunacy is exposed so (hopefully) our leaders in Lansing will make the necessary changes in the open carry laws. You are my new hero.

  9. AAPS school board, thank you for getting started, but let’s get this gun free zone in place quickly.
    And for the Steph, Richard and Paul, I am also a born engineer and use data … The US has liberal gun ownership and carry policies and have 100x the rate of homicides by guns as our peer countries … Germany, France, UK, Australia, etc.
    This request by the majority of parents and community members is data driven, and our schools deserve to be gun-free.

  10. Deb, THANK YOU! For laying everything out in a very clear, very responsible way.

    P.S. I am also an engineer, and deal with facts and numbers and some of the “cold hard” reality every day. And one part of “cold, hard reality” is that a person with an open-carry gun, no matter how well trained or well-intentioned, cannot guarantee that SOMEONE ELSE might not take that gun away from them.

    (Let alone the multiple documented instances in Michigan alone of gun carriers in schools accidentally shooting THEMSELVES.)

  11. Thank you Deb Mexicotte for your eloquent and courageous statement. You are representing the views of the vast majority of parents who have children in the Ann Arbor public schools. I am one of those parents. Like most, I want my child in an environment where people around him are not carrying guns, openly or concealed, legally or illegally. Perhaps some of those who have posted comments have lost sight of the fact that these are schools, attempting to educate children and to keep them safe. No matter what Michigan’s state laws say, guns simply have no place in schools; they have no place around children. Daily accidents involving children and guns and many school shootings have shown this to be true. We have elected the school board to create conditions where our children can be educated properly and safely. Deb Mexicotte is attempting to responsibly fulfill that charge.

  12. Thank you. A well articulated and reasoned statement that I hope prevails in the face of immense pressure from those who disagree.

  13. Your courage Deb Mexicotte is to be commended especially with the vile emails our wonderful talented choir director has received . Rest assured , you are not just speaking out against the CPL owners here in Ann Arbor but the actual NRA and they are listening . They are incredibly powerful and their tactics when feeling threatened are ugly.

    My son has been raised to not panic if he sees a gun because most likely it is a 1st responder whom we respect and thank every day . His father was a veteran and insisted on carrying the few times he visited his son and I hates it but understood his need .
    But as a a Swiss-American, the level of violence and concern we have in our own schools about gun violence and terror threats is appalling . This does not happen in Europe.
    We need to ask ourselves why .
    Do anything you can do but know it will be an ugly battle because the NRA has limitless amounts of money to spend and AAPS does not. I hate to be practical but perhaps we can find a middle ground … a metal detector so that no guns or any weapons are brought into events or school …? It would keep from alienating anyone and we do it on behalf of our students and their peace of mind – no one else .

    We have lived in the South and we love it’s culture and people for many reasons but our gun happy society is alive and well there . Almost everyone carries , men and women ,
    (and teachers ) in their schools . We sadly had to live with this .
    But we don’t have to here and one of many reasons we happily moved back up to Ann Arbor . I urge people to appeal to the governor’s practical sense as a father – he calls Ann Arbor home . On Twitter he is @onetoughnerd – and he may be reasonable . I said “may”. But we can’t turn this into what the NRA wants – a full fledged 2nd amendment rights battle … we will lose especially in this GOP state .

    Consult with other school districts . Find out how they managed to keep guns off school property without causing World War III with the NRA. I may sound intimidated but I worked on the Hill years ago and have seen their powerful lobbies 1st hand . This incident alone probably helped them raise more funds as they thrive on instilling fear and paranoia in citizens so everyone feels they need to carry to survive.

    I believe in responsible gun ownership if you really feel you need one for protection or sport .
    Unless you are a 1st responder – you have no need to bring any weapons to a school event.
    Thank you to all the citizens who do have CPLs and never would bring their guns to a children’s event in a school setting .
    Thank you for being responsible and considerate of every family attending with all age children and life experiences . Thank you for your sanity and intelligence .

    And to Deb Mexicotte, nothing is impossible but let’s make certain we do not create more hurdles and look at this practically . We may not be able to change others – but we can make our schools safer in many ways that are not happening now .

  14. As a parent of an AAPS student, I want to thank you, the Board and Superintendent Swift for taking such quick and decisive steps in protecting OUR schools and our kids from becoming pawns in an organized political scheme.

    I don’t believe for a single second that these organized pro-gun groups, who send their out-of-town representatives to our school board meetings and post their scripted opinions here, care anything about me or my child’s safety, but I know that YOU DO. So, THANK YOU.

  15. Thanks for your courage and leadership. The Open Carry/NRA proponents have chosen to make this an issue here in Ann Arbor and they are a very determined and well financed group. You can easily see the domination of MLive message boards by full time paid NRA lobbyists. Their statements about “safety” are a smokescreen as many public shootings and school shootings were committed by formerly “peaceful” citizens.
    I have 2 kids in the AAPS. I don’t want guns in our schools.

  16. Thank you President Mexicotte for your well thought out and reasoned opinion. To those standing in opposition I would point out that from an observer’s point of view there is zero apparent difference between the lawful, peaceful gun owner carrying a weapon and the killer about to embark on a shooting spree until the shooting starts. This isn’t a movie, and we don’t wear white hats and black hats to identify who the ‘bad guys’ are.

    By bringing a weapon into a sensitive public venue, especially a place where the community agrees that they are not welcome, you mark yourself as a potential threat to the safety of everyone around you. You could be a responsible, law abiding gun owner. You could be the next madman about to make national headlines. We can’t tell just by looking at you. To require at minimum that your license and status be verified by the police is the school’s responsibility to the safety of our children.

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