Vancouver school board hears other side of gun debate

Residents offer rebuttal to those wanting to let teachers be armed

By Susan Parrish, Columbian education reporter

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Local gun advocates: Teachers should be able to arm themselves

Heather Lindberg was a freshman at Hudson's Bay High School in 1999 when the shooting at Columbine High School rocked the nation. Now 28, Lindberg is the mom of a kindergarten student at Sacajawea Elementary. She doesn't believe more guns in schools are the answer to curbing school shootings.

When she heard people at the Jan. 8 school board meeting of Vancouver Public Schools advocate for teachers to be armed, she vowed to return to the next school board meeting and speak.

"Contrary to what the NRA says, a good guy with a gun rarely can stop a bad guy with a gun and nothing to lose," Lindberg said at the meeting Tuesday night.

The school board listened to the public comments on the topic, but took no action.

Lindberg was one of four district residents who spoke during the public comment time in opposition to arming teachers. Her husband and mother are teachers in the district,

Emily Boyd, 17, a senior at Skyview High School, also spoke. "I've never felt my safety has been threatened," she said. "After tragedy happens, there's all that fury. But after the dust settles, we need to step aside and ask if it's been working."

Peder Erickson read part of a letter to the editor he wrote to The Columbian recently. He asked a series of questions regarding arming teachers:

"Will teachers be taught basic gun safety or will they receive full SWAT training? Will teachers be allowed to carry guns on their person? Will the guns be loaded? If a student should somehow get hold of the teacher's gun and ammunition and injures or kills somebody, will the teacher be held liable?" Erickson asked.

Skyview High School parent Heidi Yewman is an alumna of Columbine High School in Colorado. Although she'd graduated some years before the shooting there, her former teacher was killed in the Columbine shooting. She's been advocating for gun safety ever since.

When she read in The Columbian about gun advocates calling on the school board to allow teachers to be armed, Yewman said, "I was angry. Their voice did not reflect what I believe or what the parents I know believe."

Yewman spoke at the Tuesday board meeting "to let the school board know that they've done a great job in terms of school safety and being proactive. Most parents do not feel the way to stop violence is to have armed volunteers in front of our schools or to have teachers carry guns."

A former teacher and now a school volunteer, Yewman is the state president of the Million Mom March/Brady Campaign and serves on the boards of the national Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence and the National Gun Victims Action Council.

At the Jan. 8 school board meeting, eight gun advocates, including members of the group Reality Clark County, spoke during the public comment period. The three speakers, Bob Larimer, Lynda Wilson and Mark Koprek, called on the board to allow teachers to be armed and to replace "gun-free zone" signs in schools with signs reading "protected by armed personnel."

In a Jan. 9 interview, Mike Stromme, the district's associate superintendent for teaching and learning, said, "We were clear that the state law does not presently permit what they are asking for."

State Rep. Liz Pike, R-Camas, announced last month that she is considering drafting a bill allowing teachers to bring guns to school after they purchase their own guns and take a gun-training course at their expense. As of Tuesday afternoon, Pike had yet to draft such a bill.

Susan Parrish: 360-735-4515; http://twitter.com/Col_Schoolssusan.parrish@columbian.com.