By Doug Ireland
---- — SALEM — The School Board is tightening the district’s weapons policy, proposing an automatic one-year expulsion of students who bring guns to school.
The board began reviewing its policy last week to bring it in line with the state’s Safe School Zone law, according to Superintendent Michael Delahanty. The change, which received a first reading, would clarify the policy and toughen the potential penalty for offenders, he said.
“If a student brings a weapon to school, the student is immediately expelled from school,” Delahanty said.
The district’s current policy gives the school principal the option of suspending a student for 10 days for violating the policy, he said.
The superintendent can impose an additional 10-day suspension, he said. The School Board could then expel the student for up to a year.
Municipalities and school districts across the country, including Salem, began tightening their weapons policies and security procedures following the fatal shootings of 26 people at a Newtown, Conn., school in December.
Salem improved security at its schools, especially at Fisk, Soule and Haigh elementary schools. The three schools had not received major upgrades since they were built more than 50 years ago.
Delhanty said the proposed policy change was recommended by the district’s legal counsel and the New Hampshire School Boards Association.
Michael Carney Jr. raised questions at the board’s meeting Sept. 24 whether the district’s current policy covers students who bring weapons to school events not on district property, such as a restaurant.
Another example is a school prom, according to board member Peter Morgan.
Morgan said Monday that state law allows guns to be carried in public places.
“If you have a permit, you can carry a weapon at any place in New Hampshire,” Morgan said.
School Board Chairman Bernard Campbell asked Delahanty at the meeting if a separate policy would be needed that deals with students bringing guns to school events off district property.
Delahanty said Monday he is reviewing the issue and will report back to the board later this month when it’s scheduled to adopt the proposed policy change.
“It’s something I have to look at,” Delahanty said.
Campbell said Monday the board often reviews district policies to make sure they are consistent with changes in state law.
The board recently adopted a policy change that allows students of divorcing parents to remain in the school system even if the custodial parent lives in another community, Campbell said.
The student previously had to switch schools. The policy was updated in conjunction with changes in state law, he said.