Story and photo
By Jack Minor
Emotions ran high at the emergency work session held by the District 6 Board of Education to discuss ways to prevent Board-member Brett Reese from legally carrying a weapon to board meetings. Reese informed John Gates, head of district security, that he would be carrying his weapon after receiving death threats.
The board wasted no time making it plain they felt Reese should not be bringing a gun to meetings. Board president Linda Trimberger stated that it was not “Mr. Reese’s decision to carry a weapon to school board meetings.” Several members referenced the Florida school board shooting as well as the recent Arizona shooting involving Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords.
Earlier in the week both Trimberger and board-member Bob Stack made statements to the media doubting that Reese had truly received death threats. However, at the meeting they now appeared to be concerned about their own safety as well as Reese’s.
The board discussed several security options including purchasing metal detectors for the administration building and having uniformed officers present at all meetings.
The meeting was held at the Ann K Heiman elementary school to prevent Reese from bringing his gun.
Member Judy Kron stated that she would not be a part of any meeting where there is a gun. One suggestion brought forth was to continue to hold future meetings in schools until a policy could be put into place. President Trimberger expressed her dislike for this idea saying she did not like the idea of “being kicked out of our home”, a reference to the current administration building.
Trimberger said carry a weapon sent the wrong message to the community and if Reese could carry a gun to a board meeting that it would be acceptable for private citizens to carry guns on school property.
The board made it plain their plan was to stop all individuals from carrying firearms regardless of whether the individual had a concealed carry permit or not. The board made multiple references to their safety and fear of being in the crossfire if someone were to make an attempt on Reese’s life. The proposed policy is a mirror image of the Jefferson County school district’s policy.
Stack said that it was necessary for the board to craft a policy because “we have a member who by his actions has gotten himself into a difficult situation.”
Mark Hinze said “we all share some of the reaction that Mr. Reese has attracted to himself.” Hinze went on to say that the board should have a policeman present at the meetings. “We should leave it to the professionals” said Hinze.
Hinze also said this issue will pass with time “thank God Martin Luther King day is going to come and go and will be forgotten.”
When Reese was given a chance to speak he asked if we wanted to send the message to criminals that this is a gun free zone. Reese reminded all present that at the recent school board shooting in Florida the gunman was initially the only armed person in the room. Florida laws currently prohibit non-security personnel from possessing a gun in all school board meetings.
Reese said he regretted that the board has chosen to spend so much time on this issue and not on educating the students.
Ken Delay, executive director of the Colorado Association of School boards said “the obligation of this board is not to say to armed criminals if you come in here I am going to shoot you.”
Reese questioned the legality of a board policy prohibiting weapons from any place the board would meet. This prompted Delay to yell at Reese. “you are engaging in an activity which is designed to move this activity away from the basic issue which is your safety, and which is designed to create difficulty for this board in reaching a fairly straightforward decision.” Member Bruce Broderius said “if they want to challenge it, let them challenge it.”
Reese attempted to respond, but was cut off by Trimbeger. A member of the audience, Vern Spencer a teacher with 27 years of experience said would like to hear what Reese had to say. This prompted Broderius to whirl around in his chair and shout “shut up” Trimberger “is chairman of this board, you are guests and she will run the meeting.” Spencer was then orderered to be escorted out of the meeting.
When Trimberger would not allow Reese to ask questions he walked out of the meeting. Following Reese’s departure, Trimberger said they felt it was Reese’s fault that they were now having this discussion.
Hinze said he wanted another special meeting to formally adopt a policy because Reese “has brought this problem to us as board members” and did not want to be kicked out of the administration building.
Kron said she wanted the policy to be strong enough to have a remedy if Reese did not follow the rule. Earlier Reese said as long as he felt concern for his safety he would continue to carry his weapon. He did say after the meeting that if he had assurances he would be safe he would not carry his gun.
Julie Richard said the policy should apply to all school functions regardless of locations.
Trimberger also placed the blame for any potential safety issues regarding an armed gunman on Reese saying he “should be concerned about what it will cost the taxpayer.” She went on to say if he had not directed people to a white supremacist website they would not be having this discussion. The website that she was referring to was the same one that ABC News did a story on saying the website was intended to appear legitimate and one could easily be fooled by it. Jon Stewart of the Daily Show has also referenced the site.
The next scheduled board meeting is on Jan. 24, also to be held at an elementary school where current law prohibits firearms. Several board members expressed concern about passing a policy at a community engagement meeting and wanted another special meeting passing the policy before that meeting.
While attempting to come up with a date on short notice members had various scheduling conflicts prompting member Stack to say “when you have a priority item that becomes the focus. No matter what any of us have to do this has become a priority item and is where we have to direct our energies.”
Member Richard said the board should separate the crafting of the policy and “separate that from the work of the community engagement. “The last thing we need to do is have a community engagement meeting and have emotions running high about this where we’re not having good dialogue with our community.”
Broderius agreed saying “I don’t think we need to mix this in with a community engagement meeting in anyway shape or form.”