NORTH ADAMS -- When John Hockridge first heard the National Rifle Association's call for armed security personnel in schools last December, he found the notion so disturbing, the North Adams School Committee member drafted a position statement urging the exact opposite.
Hockridge's statement, which rejects the NRA's Dec. 21 statement that armed security in schools is the "most effective strategy for protecting our children" and encourages state and federal officials to adopt stricter gun control laws, has become the basis for the Massachusetts Association of School Committees' "Model School Committee Position Statement on Gun Safety." The model statement was sent out to school boards across the state for consideration earlier this month.
"When I wrote it, the NRA was the only organization out there doing the talking," he said Monday. "I found their suggestion that armed guards in schools was the best policy and that all parents of school children would be in favor of that, to be disturbing. I thought that we, as school committee members, needed to get into the conversation and present other views on the issue."
He added, "The purpose of such a position statement is to let our state and federal legislators know where we stand on gun safety as it relates to the protection of school children, as legislation on gun safety and gun control is being considered"
The MASC also issued a position paper on school safety earlier this month, which calls on local, state and federal governments to address school safety and gun violence by: Passing legislation to ban the sale, possession and use of assault weapons; implementing mandatory gun registration and licensing at the local, state and federal levels; creating stricter criminal sanctions for firearm possession in a school; requiring school districts to establish policies relative to firearms or other weapons and by providing mental and behavioral health services to schools.
Hockridge, who also serves as MASC Division VI chairman, said the MASC position statement is largely based on the version he presented to the North Adams School Committee at its Jan. 8 meeting. The North Adams School Committee is expected to consider the statement at its next meeting.
"The [MASC version] is intended as a template and school committees can choose to adopt it as is, create their own language, or choose not to adopt a position statement," he said. "I don't know what the reaction will be. Gun violence is a very political issue for many people right now and some may be uncomfortable taking a position. Many committees may not opt to take a position. I'm not sure if the North Adams School Committee will adopt it in any form."
The MASC statement reads: "In our role of responsibility in securing the safety of our school facilities and the protection of our school children, the [school committee name] urges the U.S. Congress to adopt legislation to: Ban the sale and the possession of military-style assault weapons; ban the sale and possession of high capacity magazines and require every gun buyer to pass a criminal background check."
"Moreover, we urge the National School Boards Association (NSBA) to support this effort. Given that we support local school committees to make informed decisions regarding school security and that these decisions should be made at the local level, the [school committee name] urges the rejection of the NRA assertion that staffing schools with armed security personnel is the most effective strategy for protecting our children."
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