Taking care on ‘big step’

Use of Force policy discussion continues for MVSD 244

— “If the [firearms[ policy were to come to a vote tonight, I could not support it,” said Mountain View School District 244 trustee Jeremy Harris of Grangeville.

Harris spoke about the MVSD 244 Use of Force Policy that had its third reading at the Dec. 19 school board meeting. Only trustees Casey Smith of Clearwater, chair Mike Dominguez of Kooskia, clerk Becky Hogg and Harris were present (aside from five audience members; three of whom are employees of the school and two members of the media).

“I have a lot of reservations,” Harris stated. “I am just not in favor of the policy as it currently reads.”

Hogg emphasized the policy may be read as many times as needed prior to action – if any – being taken.

“There is nothing magic about the third reading – we could have 97 readings,” Hogg stated.

Dominguez had information from a Kiona-Benton school district in Washington in which he said some of that wording may be added to the proposed MVSD 244 policy in order for clarification.

“We have had people ask, ‘what is the intent on this policy?’” he said. “Some additions will help with defining that. Number one, law enforcement makes the decision on who is trained and a number of steps take place to see who could carry a weapon on school property.”

Dominguez made clear that whatever staff member would be chosen to carry would have to be willing to do so – that person would not be “forced” – and the proper training from Idaho County law enforcement officials would take place, as well as background and psychiatric checks.

“Our policy has been emulated after Garden Valley’s policy, but we need to remember it is vastly different for us because they have a paid resource officer and we are talking about arming teachers, administration or staff,” he said.

Lewiston Tribune reporter Kathy Hedberg asked why resource officers were not an option.

“Cost,” shrugged Dominguez. “It really comes down to that. With five schools, we would have to come up with $50,000 per school per year, and where would that money come from?”

The question arose if the local law enforcement agencies will be willing to work together to assist the schools with the enforcement of their policy as well as the training and any consulting that is needed.

“They are all willing to work together as they have stated they ultimately want what is best for our kids,” Dominguez said.

“It [the policy] is just a big step and I want us to be very careful in what we do,” Harris added.

The board said they will continue to read the policy and make additions as necessary. The next reading will take place at the January meeting.

“I won’t be here next month, but I would like to be present before any vote is taken,” requested Smith.

The board also discussed the use of its safety locks on all the school’s doors.

“I have been able to set some of those locks and make it so the doors are self-closing the way they should be,” said district maintenance man Ty Reuter. “I feel really good that this has been addressed and it’s universally enforced throughout our schools.”

This came following concern at a previous meeting addressing concerns that the schools were not utilizing the safety measures they had at their disposal prior to deciding on a use of force policy.

“I think our patrons will be happy at what we have done [with our lock systems],” Dominguez said.

Since the superintendent and all administrators were absent, no reports for these offices were given.

The board will look at the 2017-18 draft calendar at the January meeting. This calendar includes less time off during Christmas holidays.

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