Gun policy – Volunteers resign after board rejects ban on concealed permit guns

May 2022 Posted in Community, School

By Stephen Floyd

Two members of a policy committee for the Silver Falls School District (SFSD) have resigned in protest after the board rejected a proposed ban on concealed carry firearms amid confrontational discussions.

Superintendent Policy Workgroup members Dawn Tacker and Melissa Seifer Briggs resigned May 23 following the board’s May 9 regular meeting, during which policy proposal KGBB was voted down 4-3.

The Silver Falls School District Board met May 9, and on a 4-3 vote rejected the ban on concealed carry handguns proposed by the Superintendent Policy Workgroup.



The policy would have banned all firearms except those carried by law enforcement, eliminating an exception for individuals with concealed carry permits. State law allows concealed carry in public schools, but legislation passed in 2021 gave school boards the option to ban the practice.

Supporters of KGBB saw it as an opportunity to improve student safety, however, the proposal generated staunch opposition from a majority of SFSD board members and was criticized as a token effort to send a political message.

“People who are going to engage in an unlawful use of a firearm aren’t going to give a crap that we passed the policy,” said Board Chair Jonathan Edmonds during the May 9 meeting. “So it’s symbolic more than it’s substantive.”

Ban starts with cold reception

The workgroup proposed KGBB in February as part of a policy package addressing a broad array of issues, from specialized academic programs to workplace harassment to head lice mitigation. The workgroup itself was created in 2020 to help the district manage a backlog of required and recommended policy revisions, with members appointed by and serving at the discretion of Superintendent Scott Drue.

During the policy package’s first reading before the board March 28, KGBB generated opposition from Edmonds and board members Owen Von Flue and Aaron Koch, who argued the policy did not address any known problems. Tacker would later tell the board the intent of KGBB was to prevent students from having access to firearms on district property, and to discourage well-meaning firearm owners from recklessly intervening during a crisis.

During the policy package’s second reading April 11, Von Flue made a motion to table KGBB, effectively killing the proposal, on the grounds that it was unlikely current board members would vote to approve it. His motion passed 4-3, with dissenting board members Jennifer Traeger, Janet Allanach and Lori McLaughlin arguing the policy deserves open discussion and board action during a third and final reading.

KGBB re-assessed

The board revisited this decision April 25 after they were informed it was unprecedented and may have violated a policy requiring three readings of a proposal prior to board action. Tacker spoke to the board that day and urged them to return KGBB to the agenda for a third reading to protect an open and transparent policy process.

“Those three readings are pretty critical to what we do, and I think that there’s been a lot of public trust around that,” said Tacker.

Traeger, Allanach and McLaughlin echoed this sentiment and argued the bill deserved an opportunity for public input and board discussion, while those opposed to KGBB said tabling made no difference as the proposal was certain to fail. However, board member Tom Buchholz, who opposed KGBB, agreed there would be no harm in following the three-read process and, with his support, a motion to return to KGBB to the board agenda passed 4-2 (Koch was absent).

The board also agreed to remove KGBB from the policy package and vote on the matter separately when the time came.

Supporters rally for KGBB

This path to a final reading caught the attention of KGBB supporters, who attended the May 9 meeting to advocate for what they saw as a critical step to ensure student safety.

“In a country where school shootings are endemic, with zero legislation to solve the problem, the last thing we need is someone playing Yosemite Sam thinking they are going to be the good guy with a gun in our schools,” said Karyssa Dow.

“It’s not political, it’s a public health issue,” said Sarah Kaser Weitzman. “I think it’s just really important that you think about the safety aspects of it and not the politics, because it’s not political, it’s about the safety of our children.”

“I was in the military for eight years,” said Jason Dow. “I won’t even carry my gun at school where my kid is and other people’s kids are, and I trust my judgment over everybody’s.”

“If this board prides itself on being a sounding board of the community, it should listen to the community volunteers who suggested the policy, the commentators here tonight, and the survey that overwhelmingly supports a ban on guns in school,” said Michele Stone Finicle, referencing national polls that suggest a majority of Americans favor stricter gun control.

Dawn Tacker, then a
member of the Superintendent Policy Workgroup, speaks to the school board on April 25 about the board’s decision to table a proposed ban on
concealed carry handgun

Policy or politics?

When Tacker spoke, she expressed frustrations she felt as a member of the workgroup, which she said carefully weighed the pros and cons of KGBB before reaching a unanimous decision to place it before the board. She said, when board members dismissed the policy out-of-hand, this undermined a process the board itself put in place.

“When this board ignores those recommendations, including recommendations from top district staff, it jeopardizes the integrity of the policy development process,” she said, adding, “Although each of you has a right to your own opinion as private individuals – and I would forever defend that right – your job when you serve on the board is to govern by consensus.”

These criticisms did not sit well with Von Flue, who said public comment that night felt less like community support for a policy and more like a political effort to strong-arm public officials.

“I felt a little bit threatened by the testimony today saying we’ve essentially empowered [the workgroup] to tell us what to do, and if we don’t do it then we’re violating our policy somehow,” said Von Flue.

“We don’t abrogate our responsibility,” he continued. “And I certainly don’t want a policy committee that is – I’m just going to go out and say it – our policy committee is very left of the center. I don’t care about that. I think they’re good people, they care. But I don’t want them to be a political arm, lobbying us and then threatening us to tell us we have somehow abrogated our responsibility to adopt policy.”

Perspectives unchanged

Koch addressed public comments about student safety and said opposition to KGBB was not opposition to public health, rather a matter of practicality.

“I’m not convinced putting this policy in place would create a solution for anything at hand in Silver Falls School District,” he said.

Edmonds and Buchholz echoed this sentiment, with Buchholz saying individuals with concealed carry licenses are “hyper-law-abiding” and don’t pose a threat.

Allanach countered this argument by asking: Rather than proving what a ban on firearms would solve, why shouldn’t they try to prove what allowing guns in schools would accomplish? McLaughlin added that concealed carrying is a personal decision, but that doesn’t mean guns should be allowed in schools around children.

Traeger conceded that enforcement of a ban would be problematic, as people intent on possessing guns on school grounds could simply ignore the policy. She added she was glad KGBB was allowed a third read and an opportunity for board discussion and public input.

When the policy came to a vote, McLaughlin, Traeger and Allanach were still in favor and Edmonds, Von Flue, Koch and Buchholz were still against.

Drue takes no sides

Before the votes were cast, McLaughlin asked Drue if he believed KGBB was in the best interests of the district and student safety. Drue said he was not ready to comment on the matter, and instead addressed individuals who claimed during public comment that he was in support of the policy.

“I think what I’m prepared to say right now is that I’ve heard some speak for me tonight and I’d appreciate it if individuals that speak, speak for themselves,” he said. “That in no way puts me on either side, and I’m not prepared to speak on that right now.”

Our Town reached out to the district to ask if Drue had any comment after the policy had been decided. District spokesperson Derek McElfresh said Drue “has no comment on this matter at this time.”

Drue’s unwillingness to publicly take a stance was one of the reasons Tacker and Seifer Briggs cited for stepping down, as well as Von Flue’s comments and what they saw as a failure by Edmonds to intercede. In a joint statement, the two women said the workgroup serves no political function and is instead committed to the safety and success of students, and KGBB supported that goal.

“This is the first time in the almost two years since the creation of the Superintendent’s Policy Workgroup that the board has voted against adopting a recommended policy,” said the statement. “We do not feel that allowing concealed carry firearms in schools is in the best interest of students, staff, educators, and families. We also respect that it is the board’s job and prerogative to adopt policies, or vote to not adopt them.”

McElfresh confirmed Tacker and Seifer Briggs have left the workgroup. He said the district is grateful for their contributions.

“We appreciate the time and energy they devoted to helping us update and revise our policies, and wish them the best,” he said.

Sorry, comments for this entry are closed at this time.