Augusta County Schools Ban Guns

By: Damon Dillman
By: Damon Dillman

The Augusta County School Board is the latest to ban weapons from school property - under any circumstances.

On Thursday night, the school board voted 6-1 to amend the district's weapons policy. The new policy bans weapons from all school grounds at any time - even if the weapon is in a closed container or locked in a trunk.

"Guns and weapons do not belong on school property, and we need everything we can to keep our schools as safe as possible," explained Thom Jennings, one of the school board members who voted in favor of the amendment.

Earlier this year the Harrisonburg City and Rockingham County school boards passed similar bans. But not everyone thinks they're necessary.

The only Augusta County school board member to vote against the amendment was Penny Plemmons of Goshen. She says the change will punish students who are obeying a state law that allows unloaded guns in trunks on school grounds.

And William Deardorff, principal at Buffalo Gap High School, says the new policy will be difficult to enforce.

"You have to have reasonable cause to search the cars," he said. "I can see many, many problems with it."

Deardorff has been principal at Buffalo Gap for 16 years.

"We have never had a problem in the past," he said. "In the past, we've simply told the kids to keep them out of sight and locked up in their cars.

"My feeling is if a student's going to bring a gun on school property for the purpose of doing harm to someone," Deardorff added, "they're going to do that regardless."

Another reason Plemmons says she opposed the change was because students - many of whom would bring guns so they could hunt either before or after school - behaved properly with their weapons.

Jennings disagreed with the notion that the ban was a punishment.

"I think it may be an inconvenience for those minority of students who had the opportunity to hunt before school, or hunt immediately after school," he said.

"But we're dealing with a minority of students, we're dealing with a small portion of the school year," Jennings added. "I think it behooves us to do whatever we can to keep our schools as safe as we can, and this policy change makes our schools safer, in my opinion."

Deardorff sympathizes with those students.

"I just think the policy is not really necessary, and I feel bad for the good kids who truly are interested in hunting," he said.

Deardorff added that he will notify students of the new ban on Monday. He says he doesn't expect it to be a major problem.

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