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Superintendent’s Update

Posted January 15, 2013 in Community Blogs, Norwalk

The nation is still mourning the tragedy in Newtown.  Each year our School Improvement Advisory Committee features a subcommittee regarding safety.  The SIAC safety committee worked diligently during construction projects to provide entrances with cameras and observed entry, cameras throughout buildings and in many parking lots, electronic entrances with key fobs and many other safety measures.  The details of Sandy Hook are being released for study.   We are examining these details and developing action plans.  Of course, we are turning to the professionals.

The Mayor mentioned an “upcoming city/school meeting” in his last newspaper article.  A great meeting was held with Norwalk City officials, police, fire rescue and our SIAC safety team.   Officer Brad Criswell presented a PowerPoint with many details of the Sandy Hook situation.   It does appear that the staff and students followed the approved safety plan.  The aggressive nature of the intruder did compromise some of the initial safety measures and we are examining our protocols in response.  Some weaknesses were identified immediately.  These countermeasures are being put in place.  Norwalk safety officials will tour each facility to maximize our safety protocols and make recommendations.  We value  their expertise and appreciate their willingness to volunteer.

Speaking of volunteers, Norwalk Schools have a great resource in the WatchDOGs.   Brad Miller planted a seed with other parents, watered and tended this group and look at the results!  Many parents responded positively in the aftermath of Sandy Hook.  They drove up to school and saw that Brad “called out the DOGs”.  A parent shared this program with media.  A Channel 13 feature story can be found at:

http://whotv.com/2013/01/09/norwalk-watchdogs-improving-safety-and-grades/

I had a couple of questions in response to my last article and my blogs in Norwalk Living. I wanted to make sure we are clear and on the same page regarding weapons.   Officer Brad Criswell carries.  I have always supported our School Resource Office (SRO) being armed and will continue to support the concept.  But, the laws are very clear about the difference between an officer and anyone else.  (see clarification from Ahlers Law Firm below).

The New “Concealed Carry” Law Has No Impact on K-12 Schools.

As you have almost certainly seen on the news or read in the paper, on January 1, 2011, certain amendments to the Iowa Code provisions governing carrying weapons went into effect.  In a nutshell, the amendments made it easier to get a non-professional permit to carry weapons in the State of Iowa.  However, even if a person has a non-professional permit to carry weapons, he or she is still not entitled to bring firearms onto the grounds of a school.

Iowa Code section 724.4B specifically says that bringing weapons onto the grounds of a school is a class D felony, unless:

  • The person is a peace officer, member of the armed forces or national guard, or correctional officer, who is carrying the weapon in connection with his or her duties as such; or
  • The weapon is unloaded, inside a closed and fastened container or securely wrapped package or in the luggage or cargo compartment (i.e., trunk) of a vehicle; or
  • The school has specifically authorized the person to bring the weapon onto school grounds, such as for purposes of conducting an instructional program regarding firearms.

Moreover, Iowa Code section 724.7, as amended, specifically states that a permit is not valid where possessing or carrying a firearm is prohibited by state or federal law.  Under federal law, it is generally unlawful to possess a firearm in a “school zone,” subject to exceptions similar to those in the Iowa Code described above.  18 U.S.C. § 922(q)(2).  “School zone” includes the grounds of any public or private elementary or secondary school, as well as all public property within 1,000 feet of such a school.  18 U.S.C. § 921(a)(25).[1] 

In summary, the new “concealed carry” law in Iowa does not change anything for K-12 schools.  It was generally unlawful to bring a gun on school grounds before, and it still is today—whether or not the person has a permit.  -Ahlers Law Firm

As we understand more from Newtown, we will change our protocols in response.  The world is changing and we must change with it.  Go Warriors!





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