Portland School Board takes up gun violence resolution

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PORTLAND — The School Board is considering a resolution on gun violence prevention.

More than 150,000 students at primary and secondary schools in the U.S. have experienced a shooting on campus since the Columbine High School massacre in 1999.

Chairwoman Anna Trevorrow said that’s why she is proposing the board call on Congress and the state Legislature to “address the issue of gun violence.”

“Our fellow elected bodies at the state and federal levels must become partners in addressing gun violence if we are to ensure safe and fear-free learning environments for our children,” she said in a Facebook message posted Feb. 23.

On Monday, Trevorrow said, “In light of all the school shootings, it’s imperative that we act. Our community is calling for it and we need to (take steps) to protect our students.”

In her Facebook post, Trevorrow said the goal of the resolution is to get legislative bodies at the national and state level to “pass laws regulating access to firearms in the interest of student and public safety.”

The resolution was scheduled to have a first reading Tuesday at 6 p.m. in Room 200 at Casco Bay High School, before being discussed in a workshop immediately after the board’s regular business meeting.

Then, she said, if a majority of the School Board is in favor, the resolution would be brought back for a final vote on March 6.

In the meantime, Trevorrow said the School Department is also reviewing all of its policies and procedures related to school safety.

She said the resolution is important, even though it wouldn’t lead to any immediate changes at the local level. “In many ways a School Board is the least equipped to address this issue in a systemic way,” Trevorrow said Monday.

On the other hand, she said, it’s “important to me that we make a statement. I’ve heard from constituents that this is something they want (to see).”

The gun violence prevention resolution the School Board is set to take up this week is adapted from one that was unanimously adopted by the Fairfax County School Board in Falls Church, Virginia, on Feb. 22.

In researching the resolution, Trevorrow said she learned several “astounding facts,” including that among high-income nations, 92 percent of youth between 15 and 24 who have been killed by bullets are American. She also learned that “nearly two dozen children are shot every day on average.”

These statistics and others like them, including the murder of 17 students and faculty at a Parkland, Florida, high school on Feb. 14, are part of the reason that School Departments in Maine and around the country are taking steps to address gun violence.

Trevorrow said she doesn’t know if any other local boards are taking up similar resolutions, but this week one Maine lawmaker has submitted a bill that would provide $20 million to fund school safety improvements.

The proposal was to go before the Legislative Council on Tuesday, according to Rep. Patrick Corey, R-Windham, who submitted the legislation.

“Funding is really the biggest obstacle to security enhancements at Maine’s K-12 public schools,” Corey said in a press release.

“I feel a real sense of immediacy, as I know many Mainers do, but without the funding in place, very little can happen,” he said, according to a story published Monday by the Portland Press Herald.

Trevorrow’s resolution states, “From Columbine to Virginia Tech to Sandy Hook to Parkland, the lives of hundreds of students and school employees have been lost to the plague of gun violence.”

The document adds that the “Portland Public Schools’ whole student goal focuses, among other things, on creating a safe school environment where students can learn free from trauma and stress and with appropriate support for their health, safety and well‐being.”

The resolution also recognizes “that in spite of our best intentions, the responsibility for preventing gun violence incidents cannot be relegated to school districts alone.”

So, the document calls on “the United States Congress and state legislatures, including the Maine General Assembly, to prioritize the protection of students and school system employees by passing legislation that more effectively regulates access to firearms in the interest of public safety.”

The resolution also asks for funds for “public‐health research on firearms‐related issues, and (that) advances mental health supports.”

Kate Irish Collins can be reached at 710-2336 or kcollins@theforecaster.net. Follow Kate on Twitter: @KIrishCollins.