DSB Analyzes Gun Rules At School – Dresden School Board Update (2/27/18)

Last week’s Dresden School Board meeting started off in the HHS library with a grant to Hanover High School’s sustainability collaborative from the Hermit Hill Family Fund via the NH Charitable Foundation ($5,000.00) and a donation from Winthrop Piper and Mundy Wilson Piper ($5,000.00) for a total of $10,000.00. Mr Campbell said that sustainability is a lens through which the high school is viewing many initiatives in the curriculum. He specifically referenced Ms. Kornfield’s sabbatical where she reworked a chemistry course through that sustainability curricular lens. Mr. Campbell’s report included that Winter Carnival was a “great event this year” and he commended the student body for being proactive in cleaning up decorations. Mr. Lepene, the principal of the Richmond Middle School, reported that he had shadowed a student for a day to understand a student’s experience and perspective at school. Two passionate middle school students were present at the meeting and they gave a presentation about their project that is trying to change Columbus Day to be renamed Indigenous People’s Day. They were asking the board for guidance and support in moving forward with action to change the name, and members of the board agreed to put them in contact with several representatives.

The late start committee reported that it will have a full report by the end of the school year that will include pros and cons and possible issues with moving back the start time of school. It will not come with any recommendation and will be only informational.

King Arthur Flour representatives came to the meeting requesting an easement to build a potential sewage pipe through the Dresden Fields on Route 5 to access the Hartford sewage system. In addition, policy IHCD, a policy that allows students to be eligible to participate in the dual enrollment program with various college classes and to access state funding for those programs, was discussed. Prior to voting on this policy, Dresden School Board member Kelly McConnell requested that the binary pronouns, like his/her, in the policy be brought into line with Council’s work on the use of non-binary pronouns. The motion was unanimously approved and the Superintendent assured the Dresden Chair, Neil Odell, that the policy would be amended to include only non-binary pronouns.

Last week’s meeting drew several community members because of the gun policy in schools discussion. Dr. Badams had been planning on talking about the HHS gun policy and guns in general even before the tragic shooting in Florida. Dr. Badams started by saying that when the HHS gun policy (which does allow boards to prevent anyone from entering school with a gun) was originally reviewed by a law firm, the conclusion was that we were in compliance with higher law. However, according to NH state law, “people are permitted to carry guns onto our campuses and into our buildings” said Dr. Badams. This creates a problem for our principals, because if a person comes into the building with a gun, it is their judgment as to whether that person is a threat. In reality, if anyone other than law enforcement members came onto campus with a gun, we would automatically have a lock down. As it stands currently, students and staff can be prevented from having guns on campus, but not members of the public. Therefore, the most immediate question is whether there will be pro-gun protesters in the school with their guns on the upcoming voting day. According to NH law, this would be allowed and the school would have no way to prevent them from entering the school with firearms. Our current policy is not in line with higher legislation, which means that the “other side” could take us to court. Dr. Badams stated that he sees “no good reason why a school is a place for anyone to ever carry a gun”.

Martha Hennessey, a Hanover resident who represents District 5 in the NH State Senate, has proposed a floor amendment to  Senate Bill 357. This amendment if passed would allow “school boards to determine whether or not to prohibit the possession of firearms in a safe school zone”. This amendment gives NH school boards local control to write school board policy that  prevents members of the public from bringing a gun onto school property. Two members of the Hanover community came to speak in support of prohibiting members of the public from entering school with a gun. They urged the board to email their NH legislature and education committee representatives, and to go to Concord to stand behind banning guns from schools. Neil Odell made the point that he wants to keep an open channel of communication between the Dresden Board and the Council so that this important discussion with student input can continue. The board also discussed what to do about voting day due to predictions that people may be in the school with guns. The two proposed options were either to have an in-service day on that day and not to hold school, or to move town voting so that it would not take place in the school. It was noted that the Hanover Police department will be on site to  be a presence at the school, but could not legally take action unless the community member with the gun was acting in a threatening manner.

After the gun discussion, the board approved HHS’s spring head coaches, the 2018-19 school calendar, and a March Intensive donation.


Editor’s Note: Council Executive Linda Addante, who was as the meeting, contributed information for this article since the author had to leave the meeting early. 

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