Safe Guns on School Grounds?

By: Erin Tate
By: Erin Tate

Their populations are similar. They have roughly the same budget and they're both largely rural. But permitting guns on school grounds is one issue where Augusta County and Rockingham County don't see eye to eye.

Recently, the Rockingham County School Board responded to a new state law which allows unloaded guns in car trunks on school property. It said it would stand by its gun-free policy. Parents were proud.

Debra Young, a concerned parent, said, "I just feel the guns should be left at home. I don't think they should be left in the trunk or glove compartment, especially at school."

In a heated debate last week, the Augusta County School Board had to decide whether or not to change its long-standing no-guns-allowed policy. Three members were eager to follow Rockingham County, but the remaining four said there was not enough time or public input to do so before student handbooks had to be printed.

They eliminated a section making guns illegal anytime under any circumstance. In doing so, the school board adopted state policy. But some members say the guns on school property issue should be a local one.

Thomas Jennings, an Augusta County School Board member for 11 years, said, "The school board in our rural area might look at this completely different than in Virginia Beach or Northern Virginia, so it's a local issue that ought to be decided locally."

Despite many student hunters in the area, Jennings says safety is more important than allowing them the convenience of keeping a gun in their vehicle.

"There are certain places in our society where guns aren't appropriate for any reason and I think guns are one of those places," he says.

Jennings expects that this issue will come up again in Augusta County next spring after a new school board takes office.

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