01:51 PM MDT on Monday, September 10, 2007
MEDFORD, Ore. -- A high school teacher in southern Oregon plans to challenge a school district policy that prevents her from carrying a gun on school grounds.
Portland lawyer Jim Leuenberger said in an e-mail message to the Mail Tribune newspaper that he will ask a Jackson County judge to declare the Medford School District's policy "illegal and void" for holders of concealed handgun licenses.
"There is a state statute that prohibits local governments -- including school boards -- from restricting possession of firearms by concealed firearm permit holders," Leuenberger said.
Leuenberger said the teacher wishes to remain anonymous and he will list her name as "Jane Doe" in the complaint. When contacted by the Mail Tribune, the teacher said she wants anonymity because she fears for her and her daughter's safety.
Leuenberger said the woman has divorced her husband and obtained a restraining order against him.
The woman contacted the lawyer and the Oregon Firearms Federation after school officials approached her about rumors that she was carrying a weapon. Schools attorney Tim Gerking said the teacher denied the accusation, but officials reminded her about the district policy.
"It's our responsibility to provide a safe learning environment for our students and a safe working environment for our employees," Gerking said in an interview late last week. "We feel that would not be fostered by allowing folks, whether they have the authority or not, to bring weapons onto campus, in particular firearms -- loaded firearms."
Kevin Starrett, executive director of the firearms federation, said he had been looking for a case like this one so he could challenge schools' prohibition of firearms.
"We were approached by the individual because she had been threatened by the school district," Starrett said. "It was just a perfect opportunity for us to get some judicial resolution to this."
Though the Medford teacher wants the gun to protect herself from an ex-husband, Starrett said armed teachers could prevent school shootings.
"I worry about people being gunned down like dogs because they've been denied the right to have their self-defense firearm," Starrett said.
But School Board Chairman Mike Moran, a retired lieutenant with the Medford Police Department, said he's worried that the firearm could fall into the hands of a student.
"Even if it's a totally legitimate person with a legitimate permit, can you adequately guarantee that it will not fall into the hands of a student?" Moran asked. "You can't."