By Jeanice K. Swift, Superintendent of Schools
It is a great day in the Ann Arbor Public Schools as we have received word that the Michigan Supreme Court has upheld the ruling of the lower courts in the case Michigan Gun Owners, Inc. v Ann Arbor Public Schools. The Supreme Court decision leaves intact district policies banning the possession of firearms in schools and at school- sponsored events.
This decision is a victory for the children of Michigan and for local Boards of Education who will now have the choice to enact school safety policies that best fit their community. AAPS Board President, Christine Stead, shares, “This is an important ruling on behalf of both children and local governance. In our community we believe guns do not belong in schools and our policies are an effort to achieve that. We work hard to provide a safe environment for education and believe this ruling enables us to do that work, especially on behalf of our students.”
We want to thank our Ann Arbor community who spoke so strongly in support of keeping guns out of our public schools and our Board of Education who courageously enacted these student safety policies. Thanks, also, to the many individuals and organizations that shared amicus briefs and supported the effort in so many other ways.
For three years now, we have defended the AAPS Board of Education’s school safety policies as they have undergone challenges in Michigan courts. These district policies have been upheld by the Washtenaw County Circuit Court and the Court of Appeals. Amicus briefs were submitted in support of the District’s position by the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence, City of Ann Arbor, Michigan Association of School Boards, and the Michigan Education Association.
In public schools, we are charged under Michigan law with providing for the safety of the children entrusted to our care each day; federal and state laws designate schools as safety sensitive zones and weapons free school zones. Safety is our first and foremost duty, even before our critical mission of teaching and learning, and ensuring the safety of students is the promise we make to our parents and community. We always maintain our focus on providing the safe, supportive, and productive environment for learning that our children and staff deserve and our parents and community expect.
In the Ann Arbor Public Schools, we have worked to ensure student, staff, and parent safety by enacting policies to prevent the disruptive and dangerous presence of guns in our schools. We believe that the possession of a gun in school, other than by sworn officers, runs counter to what we are hard-wired to do as educators: keep our students, staff, and families safe and ensure a warm, welcoming environment where our students may grow, learn and thrive at school.
Our AAPS district involvement with guns in schools began on Thursday evening, March 5th, 2015 when an individual with a concealed pistol license attended a choir concert at Pioneer High School and openly carried a gun into the auditorium. Unfortunately, during the three years since that evening, many tragic deaths from school and other mass shootings have occurred across the country. In February, the Stoneman Douglas High School shooting, resulting in the death of 14 students and 3 staff members, again brought this issue even more forcefully into our national consciousness.
It is the business of law to draw lines, and today the Michigan Supreme Court has drawn a definitive line on the side of local choice in enacting policies to keep our children safe at school. Our one million Michigan children, and the teachers and staff who serve them, deserve to learn, teach, and grow each day in protected, peaceful, and nurturing classrooms within safe, secure schools.