ST. HELENS, Ore. -- A group of teachers, parents, students and concerned citizens said Monday that they wanted an opportunity to have their say on the issue of teachers carrying guns in the St. Helens School system.

On Oct. 23, the St. Helens School Board voted 4-1 to lift an 8-month-old ban on staff carrying concealed weapons.

A group calling themselves the St. Helens Coalition for Safe Schools said they represent local adults and students who feel left out by the school board s most recent move.

Both advocates of the ban and its opponents have said they were concerned about safety in the wake of the recent rash of school shootings across the country.

Background: School district lifts ban on teachers carrying guns

The school board s decision [to repeal the ban] did not take into account the local views and concerns for this community as a whole, said John Prunty, a St. Helens High School science teacher. The community deserves the opportunity to weigh in.

Former St. Helens student Sam Chapman said he believed the board rushed the decision through.

I m not sure the school board really thought this one through, Chapman said. In what circumstances is it OK to shoot a student? We all want the safest schools possible and it has become clear that teachers and parents need to be included when making these decisions.

Others said they were uncomfortable with the idea of teachers carrying weapons for protection.

In my opinion, the very idea of putting guns in schools to increase safety seems counter intuitive, said Susan Conn, a parent with children in the district. Teachers are educators, not safety officers. If the school district feels they need safety officers or armed guards they should hire professionals.

The group said they would hold a press conference in St. Helens at 5877 Columbia River Highway at 4:30 p.m. Monday.

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