The Kern High School District board voted 3-2 Thursday to allow teachers and other staff to bring concealed firearms into the classroom.
The district is home to more than 20 schools and 37,000 students in and around Bakersfield.
Kern High Board of Trustees President Mike Williams told a special meeting that the decision will keep schools safe.
“It makes known to people of evil intentions that if they want to do this, they're not going into a place that's a gun-free zone,” Williams said. “And I hope that alone stops things.”
The policy passed with no administrative regulations, meaning there is no direction to schools or principals in how this new rule should be rolled out.
Williams said the rules for teachers who hold concealed weapons permits to get permission to carry them on the district's campuses will be rolled out at a later time.
The timing of Thursday's vote is sparking controversy, too.
Williams told the Bakersfield Californian that the vote was scheduled during a special session so that a fellow board member -- and a supporter of the gun proposal -- could vote on it before his term ends. Williams said he didn’t feel a newly elected board member is well-versed on the debate.
Yet, that decision was voted shortly after one reading, which is a deviation from normal practice, according to the Kern High School Teachers Association.
“Allowing a vote to occur on a first-read policy amendment today, during a special board meeting in the middle of the afternoon, will only affirm that some members of this board are indeed cynical, ideological and politically motivated,” Association Vice President Jesse Aguilar said during the session. “It will further affirm the perception that there is no interest in transparency and that there is no interest in including the public in the public’s business.”
While supporters of the Kern school policy say having teachers and other staff members bring their firearms to school will help keep students safe from mass shootings, active shooters and other threats, opponents say the decision puts teachers and students at heightened risk of shootouts, injury and death.
Several other California districts allow concealed carry among some employees. They include:
- In the Sacramento suburb of Rancho Cordova, school officials earlier this year decided to allow some staff members to bring guns to campuses. The Folsom Cordova Unified School District -- which serves some 20,000 students -- does not disclose which employees carry concealed weapons, citing student safety.
- The Kingsburg Joint Union High School District outside Fresno allows the superintendent to pick five district employees to carry concealed weapons.
- Anderson Union High School District in Shasta County also allows some staff members to carry concealed weapons onto campuses.
The Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence, which advocates gun control laws, says that nine states allow concealed-carry weapons at schools. California is one of three other states that allow school districts to make the call on allowing people holding concealed weapons permits to bring guns to campus.