You know that monthslong, at-times overwrought debate over whether guns should be allowed on Kern High School District grounds? The one that resulted in policies allowing certain teachers and other members of the public to carry?
It may have all been for naught.
A state Assembly bill introduced earlier this month could reverse policies the Kern High School District passed last year allowing concealed carry weapon permit holders to bring firearms into classrooms.
Assemblyman Kevin McCarty, D-Sacramento, introduced AB 424 on Feb. 13 with the intention of closing a loophole in the Gun Free School Zone Act. That act, also known as SB 707, barred firearms on school grounds, but made exceptions for anyone granted permission by local superintendents.
AB 424 would change that.
“A safe learning environment is essential for our children to be successful in the classroom,” McCarty said. “That’s not possible if a school district allows armed civilians to roam California school campuses."
KHSD was among the districts McCarty's office named in a news release as having prompted the bill.
It was one of a handful of school districts statewide that have allowed civilian CCW permit holders to bring firearms on campus, and possibly the only Kern County school district to extend such a policy to on-duty teachers.
More than a dozen nonemployees were granted permission to carry on campus as recently as November. The district has not yet drafted administrative regulations to permit teachers to carry on campus.
District officials said they wouldn’t slow their plans to draft those regulations in light of the legislation.
“Kern High School District staff is continuing to move forward with the development of the administrative regulations that will accompany BP 3515.7, which was passed by the KHSD Board of Trustees last November. Staff is looking into requirements for staff such as training, and is also meeting with employee groups,” KHSD spokeswoman Lisa Krch said in an emailed statement.
Meanwhile, trustee Jeff Flores — who voted against the policy allowing teachers to carry firearms, but was in favor of the civilian policy — said the board should discuss the matter since AB 424 will likely pass. Gun control legislation in California generally enjoys broad support from a Democratic-controlled state legislature.
Board members spent hours discussing the policies last year, heard from concerned parents and activists during meetings that inflamed community tensions and flew staff members to Texas to observe a firearms training camp at a cost of almost $1,600.
“There’s a lot of unnecessary work, staff time and money being wasted on something that’s going to be undone,” Flores said.
Flores speculated Thursday that KHSD “overreached” when board members decided to extend the policy to staff, a move that grabbed state headlines and could have played a role in the legislation being drafted.
“I think we had the win-win,” Flores said of the board’s June decision to allow civilians to carry on campus. “But we got overzealous and used it as a license to open up the floodgates for everybody and now we’re on the radar for the state and the whole thing is going to be undone.”
Officials from the Dolores Huerta Foundation, which has protested the board's decision, said the legislation gives KHSD more reason to abandon drafting regulations for teachers to carry firearms.
"We call on KHSD to desist immediately wasting any more time and taxpayer resources on the policy, which does nothing to improve the quality of education," Huerta Foundation spokesman Gerald Cantu said. "It makes no sense at this point to formulate regulations for this firearms policy, which may never come to fruition. KHSD’s leadership should focus on student success and policies that would do something to encourage the quality of education for Kern students."
Trustee Mike Williams, a strong proponent of the gun policies, is doubtful the bill will pass because he suspects it would leave SB 707 vulnerable to being overturned by a judge on Second Amendment grounds.
If it does pass, though, Williams said he’s hoping the Legislature doesn’t enforce it at districts that have already enacted such policies.
“We went through a long debate and our community got very active in it. There was lots of passion. It wasn’t an easy thing, and I’d hope they would honor our decision as a community even if it differs from theirs.”