Amherst School Board Passes Resolution Promoting Safe Learning and Gun Safety

Published: 06/04/2022 10:32:38

Modified: 04/06/2022 10:30:27

AMHERST — As a veteran educator, Amherst school board member Irv Rhodes views the horror of the recent mass shooting of school children and teachers in Uvalde, Texas, as a violation of a space safe and stimulating.

Rhodes said what will remain so shocking to him, and will continue to resonate, is “that these children who are under your protection could not be protected.”

“It’s something that when I look at our schools and know what’s been put in place, I never want our children to be unprotected,” Rhodes said.

Rhodes joined his colleagues last week in unanimously passing a resolution on safe schools in Amherst, with a focus on promoting resources to support mental health, creating an environment trust school and safe gun storage education.

The resolution was presented by School Committee Chair, Alison McDonald.

“This resolution is primarily about declaring and restating and having this conversation about commitment to this work, ensuring mental health is supported, and social and emotional and staff training, and recommitting ourselves to not employing school resource officers,” McDonald said.

Part of the resolution was inspired by the Amherst Regional School Board, which in June 2020 made it clear that the use of armed school resource officers in the regional district would not be permitted. The Amherst School Board, which oversees the city’s three elementary schools, is making a similar pledge not to use resource officers in buildings indefinitely.

The resolution cites firearm injuries as the leading cause of death among children aged 1 to 19 in 2020, surpassing motor vehicle accidents for the first time.

It also seeks an environment of trust where students feel safe and have strong relationships with their peers and with adults.

Still, McDonald said he was aware students could still access firearms. “Education about this can go a long way in reminding responsible gun owners of safe gun storage,” McDonald said.

“Gun laws alone won’t solve the problem unless we also do all these other things in terms of mental health support and school climate and environment,” McDonald said.

Resolution calls for common-sense gun laws and stronger federal gun laws, and categorically opposes arming teachers and staff

Committee member Peter Demling said tougher federal gun laws would benefit Massachusetts, due to its proximity to other states.

Rhodes said there are likely more gun owners in Amherst than committee members know, and that children can be victims of guns if a gun is not properly stored and secured, and ammunition is not stored separately.

“One of the things that I think is really, really important is gun safety,” Rhodes said.

Scott Merzbach can be contacted at [email protected]

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