Burlington School Board Issues Call for Stricter Gun Laws | Off Message

Burlington School Board Issues Call for Stricter Gun Laws


A Burlington High School hallway - FILE: MATTHEW THORSEN
  • File: Matthew Thorsen
  • A Burlington High School hallway
The Burlington School Board urged Vermont lawmakers Monday to pass stricter gun laws in a resolution that says students have the right to attend school "free from fear" of gun violence.

Their vote was the latest call for new restrictions in the wake of the February 14 school shooting that killed 17 people in Florida and the recent arrest of a Vermont teen after an alleged foiled school shooting plot in Fair Haven.

The resolution urges legislators to "swiftly act to keep our children alive" and ban the manufacture, sale and possession of military-style assault weapons.

Most of the board members voted by phone in the special session, which fell during a school vacation week. Only two board members were present for the short session at the Ira Allen central office building on Colchester Avenue, as was superintendent of schools Yaw Obeng.

    Acting board chair Stephanie Seguino, who led the meeting, said she believes the resolution will make a difference in the debate. "I think speaking on behalf of children is important and that's really the purpose here," she said.

"The more pressure we can put on getting some of these things passed, it's all to the good," said board member Mark Porter, who was also present.

Fear of shootings and efforts to prepare for them is taking a toll, according to the resolution. It says, "Vermont schoolchildren spend increasingly more time participating in lockdown and active-shooter drills (now more common than fire drills), detracting from time spent on critical classroom learning and invoking significant anxiety and fear among students."

Vermont legislators appear to be showing a new willingness to consider more restrictive gun laws, which is a major turnabout. Vermont has long been known for its relaxed gun laws and until now many proposals to change the status quo have failed.

But on Friday, the Senate Judiciary Committee approved legislation that would allow police to remove guns from people considered an “extreme risk” to themselves or others. Several other measures are under debate.

Burlington is not the only school board to ponder the gun threat. The Addison Central School District board passed a similar resolution last week, which helped inspire Burlington's board to follow suit.