By Zac Taylor
Via Wyoming News Exchange
CODY — A policy to allow for qualified armed personnel in the Cody School District is one step closer to approval.
By 5-2 vote Tuesday night, the trustees approved moving Policy CKA and all regulations to second reading.
Trustees Stefanie Bell and Tom Keegan voted against the motion. For Keegan it was reiterating his position from day one. Bell said she couldn’t support the policy as currently written, but was interested in a pilot program.
“I support policy CKA for our rural schools,” she said. “I support it for certain noninstructional staff.”
Trustees William Struemke and Scott Weber said their vote was in favor of the policy and they intend to see this all the way through.
“I don’t want teachers to die for their students,” Struemke said, alluding to an old soldier phrase. “I would hope teachers are ready to fight for their students.”
Chair Kelly Simone and trustees Rebecca George and Jenni Rosencranse qualified their first priority in moving the policy to second reading was to enable the results of a community-wide mail survey of a random quarter of the population to be received. The survey closes Feb. 28.
The trustees also officially received a petition from 368 people, some of whom were at the meeting, to turn down the policy, but Simone and George, as well as Rosencranse – who phoned in from out of town specifically for the vote – have said there are still many people out in the community they want to hear from.
“It’s premature and unfair for me to vote against this policy tonight,” Simone said. “I want to hear from them.”
George had asked at the work session for an affirmative vote for that same reason.
“Even if all of those people who signed the petition received a survey, we’re still waiting for results from another 2,032 people,” she said.
The approval on first reading went against the wishes of many in the audience, and about half the crowd left after the vote.
Twenty-two people spoke prior to the vote. Most against the policy, including a fifth-grade teacher from Sunset, who survived the 1999 Columbine shooting in Colorado.
“With all the confusion and chaos, if any teachers or parents had guns, I cannot imagine how much worse that would’ve been,” Carrie LaFollette said.
A recent Cody transplant with students in the district spoke in favor during the first public input period and then stayed to thank the trustees at the final comment period before the close of the more than four hour meeting.
“I just appreciate that you guys are pursuing something,” Zach Ervine said. “The sentiment of a lot of people I talk to is something different is happening. There’s visible things happening in our communities – they’re ready to try something new.”
On the whole there were a large number of students and staff who spoke before the board.
Many of the staff were still sore in spots where they were shot by airsoft pellets earlier in the day during an active shooter training at all of the schools and the central office. One of the blinds in the board room even sported a hole where an airsoft BB had gone through.
A couple said the ALICE (alert, lockdown, inform, counter, evacuate) training made them feel safer.
The recent shooting at a Florida high school also featured prominently in comments from both sides.
Those in favor of Policy CKA, such as Bill Tallen – a constant at nearly all school board meetings – said the shooting and other recent ones proved the need for the policy.
Those against pointed to the response of the Parkland High School students, some of whom have started pushing congress for more gun control.
The disagreement centered not on whether the schools need more security, but on what form increased security should take.
The vote to move Policy CKA from second to third reading will happen at the March board meeting. If passed, trustees could approve the policy on third and final reading in April.