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Officials discuss scope of weapons policy in Salem schools

SALEM — A change in the name of a district policy that establishes punishment for bringing guns onto school property has raised questions about how the district would deal with a student who brings a weapon to a school-sponsored event held off school property.

The school board heard the first reading of the revised policy this week. The policy needs to go through one more reading before the board can officially vote on accepting the revisions.

The major changes in the policy include the title change from “Weapons in the Schools” to “Weapons on School Property” and the establishment of a mandatory one-year expulsion for any student who brings a gun to school, according to Superintendent Michael Delahanty.

“This very clearly defines the consequences for students who bring or possess a firearm on school property,” Delahanty said.

School board member Michael Carney noted that there are fundraisers and other events held at locations where, under state law, people are allowed to carry firearms provided they are properly licensed.

Board member Peter Morgan said he would hate to see a door opened where students would think it was OK to bring licensed weapons to an off-site, school-sponsored event, such as the senior prom.

“We have to be careful what we do with this,” said Morgan. “I would assume that state law would trump school district policy. If it is a school-sponsored activity, we don’t want you to bring weapons. I’m not sure how we can resolve that.”

Board Chairman Bernard Campbell asked Delahanty whether the district should add language concerning off-site activities to the existing policy or consider a separate policy.

“I would argue that if a student goes to a (restaurant) for a school-sponsored fundraiser, our expectation is that the student is not expected to have a weapon, period, end of story,” said Campbell.

Delahanty said he would take a closer look at the policy, but added that the policy under consideration only addresses school property. However, he said he would also look at possibilities of what the district could do to address weapons off school property.

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