Gun law spurs update of CSD conduct code

Posted by Dan Whisenhunt July 9, 2014
City Schools of Decatur Board of Education during its July 8 meeting. Photo by Dan Whisenhunt

City Schools of Decatur Board of Education during its July 8 meeting. Photo by Dan Whisenhunt

Decatur School Board members on July 8 quietly approved a revision to the student code of conduct to cover everything from handguns to bazookas and rocket launchers.

The revisions were a reaction to House Bill 60, the so-called “guns everywhere” legislation, and House Bill 826.

The item was on the board’s consent agenda and was approved along with several other items.

HB 826 is the lesser-known of the two bills. According to GPB News it changes the “zero tolerance” policy in public schools and gives school officials more flexibility in enforcing the law. Prior to the passage of the law, schools were required to expel students and report them to police, according to the GPB story. To read that article, click here.

The School Board agenda notes that, “No public comments have been received during time policy has been on board agenda.”

Here is the new policy, with the new language highlighted in red and strikes through the old language:

The presence of weapons, including but not limited to dangerous weapons, firearms and hazardous objects,on school property is detrimental to the welfare and safety of students and school personnel and may constitute is a violation of Georgia law. All City Schools of Decatur school safety zones are designated as Weapon-Free and Violence-Free School Safety Zones.  Weapons (including dangerous weapons, firearms and hazardous objects as defined below) are prohibited in schools, school safety zones and at school-sponsored or school-related functions except as specifically provided in this policy. 

FIREARM; SUSPENSION

Any student who is determined to have brought a firearm to school or to a school-sponsored or school-related function shall be expelled from school for a period of not less than one year, but the board of education may modify and mitigate such expulsion for good cause on a case-by-case basis.  The school district may in any event provide educational services to such expelled student in an alternative school setting separate from the regular school setting, where so ordered or permitted by the Board of Education.

  1. DEFINITIONS of a Firearm

As used in this policy, firearm shall mean any weapon (loaded or unloaded), including a starter gun which will or is designed to or may readily be converted to expel a projectile by the action of gunpowder or any other explosive, or any other destructive device, defined to include:

(1)     any explosive, incendiary, or poison gas including, but not limited to, bullets, ammunition of any type, fireworks of any type and size, smoke bombs, paint bombs, stink bombs, any type of homemade bomb;

(2)     any type of weapon, including shotguns, by whatever name known which will, or which may be readily converted to, expel a projectile by the action of an explosive or other propellant, and which has any barrel with a bore of more than one-half inch in diameter; and

(3)     any combination of parts either designed or intended for use in converting any device into a destructive device described in subparagraph 1 or 2 and from which a destructive device may be readily assembled.

The term destructive device shall not include any device which is either designed or redesigned for use as a weapon; any device, although originally designed for use as a weapon, which is redesigned for use as a signaling, pyrotechnic, line throwing, safety, or similar device; or is an antique.

Unless otherwise expressly stated, for purposes of this policy, the following terms shall have the definitions set forth in this section.

“Dangerous weapon” shall have the same meaning as set forth in O.C.G.A. § 16-11-121, as amended from time to time.  (O.C.G.A. § 16-11-121-rocket launcher, bazooka, recoilless rifle, mortar, hand grenade or similar weapon designed to explode, and as amended)

“Firearm” means a handgun, rifle, shotgun, starter gun or other weapon which will or can be converted to expel a projectile by the action of an explosive or electrical charge.

“Fireworks” shall have the same meaning as set forth in O.C.G.A. § 25-10-1, as amended from time to time.

“Hazardous object” means any dirk, bowie knife, switchblade knife, ballistic knife, any other knife having a blade two or more inches, straight-edge razor, razor blades, spring stick, knuckles, whether made from metal, thermoplastic, wood, or other similar material, blackjack, any bat, club or other bludgeon-type weapon, or any flailing instrument consisting of two or more rigid parts connected in such a manner as to allow them to swing freely, which may be known as a nun chahka, nunchuk, nunchaku, shuriken, or fighting chain, or any disc, of whatever configuration, having at least two points or pointed blades which is designed to be thrown or propelled and which may be known as a throwing star or oriental dart, or any instrument of like kind, any nonlethal air gun, and any stun gun or Taser as defined in subsection (a) of O.C.G.A. § 16-11-106.  For purposes of this policy, “hazardous object” shall also mean any explosive, incendiary, or poison gas bomb, grenade, rocket, missile, mine or similar device, including fireworks as defined in O.C.G.A. § 25-10-1, not including sparklers, which are non-explosive or contain negligible amounts of mixture. Such term shall not include any of these instruments used for classroom work authorized by the teacher.

 “School Safety Zone” means in or on any real property or building owned by or leased to any school or postsecondary institution. 

B. FIREARM OR DANGEROUS WEAPON; SUSPENSION POSSESSION OF NON-FIREARM WEAPON

Any student who is determined to have brought any other non-firearm weapon to school or a school-sponsored or school-related function shall be suspended from school and referred to the district-wide hearing officer for an appropriate hearing.  The school district may in any event provide educational services to such expelled student in an alternative school setting separate from the regular school setting, where so ordered or permitted by the board of education.

Any student who is determined to have brought a firearm or a dangerous weapon to school, into the school safety zone, or to a school-sponsored or school-related function shall be expelled from school for a period of not less than one calendar year; provided, however that a hearing officer (or other authority presiding over the case such as a tribunal, panel administrator, or superintendent) or board of education shall have the authority to modify such expulsion requirement on a case-by-case basis.  The school district may in any event provide educational services to such expelled student in an alternative school setting separate from the regular school setting, where so ordered or permitted by the hearing officer or board of education.

Definition of Non-Firearm Weapons

Non-firearm weapons includes any bow and arrow, or any dirk, Bowie knife, switchblade knife, ballistic knife, or other knife; or straight-edge razor blade, spring stick, metal knucks, blackjack; any bat, club or other bludgeon-type weapon; or any flailing instrument consisting of two or more rigid parts connected in such a manner as to allow them to swing freely, which may be known as a nun chahka, nun chuck, nunchaku, shuriken, fighting chain or martial arts device; any disc, of whatever configuration, having at least two points or pointed blades which is designed to be thrown or propelled and which may be known as a throwing star or oriental dart, or any weapon of like kind; any stun gun or taser (defined as any device that is powered by electrical charging units such as batteries and emits an electrical charges in excess of 20,000 volts or is otherwise capable of incapacitating a person by an electrical charge); any item that releases or ejects a spray, foam, gas, fire, smoke, or odor; fuses for fireworks or other explosive devices; gas propellant, mace, tear gas, pepper gas, or a similar chemical gun or implement whether used for defensive or offensive purposes; or pen-style laser pointers or other tool or device used to inflict harm.

C. HAZARDOUS OBJECT; SUSPENSION

Any student who is determined to have brought a hazardous object to school, into the school safety zone or a school-sponsored or school-related function shall be suspended from school and referred to a hearing officer for a hearing.  The school district may in any event provide educational services to an expelled student in an alternative school setting separate from the regular school setting, where so ordered or permitted by the hearing officer or board of education.

D. STUDENTS WITH DISABILITIES

(1) For purposes of this section only, “weapon” has the same meaning as the term ”dangerous    weapon” as set forth in 18 U.S.C. § 930(g), as may be amended from time to time. 

(2) A.  45-Day Interim Placement. Except as provided in subparagraph D (3) below,  A any student with a disability cognizable under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (“IDEA”), 20 U.S.C.§1400 et seq., who is determined to have brought a weapon to school, into the school safety zone, or to a school-sponsored or school related function may be placed in an interim alternative educational setting for not more than 45 days without a manifestation determination, as determined and ordered by a special education committee qualified to make special education decisions under 20 U.S.C.§1401(a)(20) appropriate school personnel.  If a parent or guardian requests a due process hearing under IDEA, the student shall nevertheless remain in the alternative educational setting above referred to until during the pendency of the expedited any proceeding conducted in connection therewith (up to 45 days), unless the parents and duly authorized school system representative agree otherwise.

(3) B. Students Whose Disability is Unrelated to the Misbehavior.  Any student with a disability under IDEA whose behavior is unrelated to the disability shall be subject to the one-year expulsion requirement of this policy the same as a student without such disability, except to the extent that such expulsion is inconsistent with federal or state laws, rules, regulations or guidance requiring that services continue to be provided to the student with a disability. the Department of Education’s final guidance concerning state and local responsibilities under the Gun-Free Schools Act of 1994, as amended; provided, in any event, some educational services shall be provided to such suspended student.

  1. REPORTING

Students believed to have violated this policy or the law shall be reported by the teacher or other employee to the principal or his designee, and by the latter to the superintendent and then to, who if he or she believes an offense has been committed, should make an oral and written report to the appropriate police authority ies and district attorney pursuant to O.C.G.A.§20-2-1184.

  1. POSSESSION OF WEAPONS BY NON-STUDENT AS WELL AS STUDENTS

Possession of weapons, including firearms, on school grounds or at a school-sponsored or school-related event, by any person, including non-students, is a crime, see O.C.G.A. §16-11-127.1 (Supp.), and school officials having knowledge of violations of this law should report same to appropriate law officials.  The state law just referred to contains certain exemptions with respect to said-law, including law enforcement officers of the State and United States, persons authorized in writing by a duly authorized official of the school to have in such person’s possession of a weapon which is to be used as a part of any activity to be conducted at the school building, weapons contained in a locked compartment of certain motor vehicles by adults over 21 years of age in bringing or picking up a student from school, and other persons enumerated in the law.

Except as expressly provided by O.C.G.A. § 16-11-127.1 or other applicable Georgia law, possession of a firearm, machine gun, explosive compound other than fireworks, and/or dangerous weapon in or on the school safety zone, by any person, including student and non-students is a crime. O.C.G.A. § 16-11-127.1., and school officials having knowledge of violations of this law shall report same to appropriate law enforcement officials. 

  1. SETTING PENALTIES

In setting penalties for violations of any provision of this policy, the hearing officer and/or board of education, superintendent or hearing officer shall consider whether there are aggravating or mitigating circumstances and the prior record of the student.

POSTING

It shall be the duty of principals and other administrators in charge of school facilities to see that notice of this policy, in abbreviated form, is posted in all school buildings under their jurisdiction and may post signs designating the school safety zone as a “Weapon-Free and Violence-Free School Safety Zone.”

About Dan Whisenhunt

Dan Whisenhunt is editor and publisher of Decaturish.com. https://www.linkedin.com/in/danwhisenhunt

View all posts by Dan Whisenhunt

  • Oakhurst Reader

    According to this, a “bat” is a hazardous object and if a student brings one into school or a school-related function (such as, oh, I don’t know . . . a school baseball/softball game, maybe) he/she must be suspended and have a hearing. I don’t know what “bat” means if it doesn’t include baseball/softball bats. I realize that it’s absurd to think that this would ever happen, but it’s one of those picky things that bothers me. The only carve-out is for classroom work assigned by a teacher. It seems like somebody should have read the policy a little closer and either created some type of exception.

  • Chris Billingsley

    Thanks Dan and good observation OR. Does anyone see a definition of a “Violence Free School Zone”? Maybe this is part of the “Weapons Free…” aspect of the rule. Who knows but parents and teachers wish our schools could be violence free zones.

  • SPB

    hmm sounds like the school is trying to regulate something they have no power to regulate..since that is up to the general assembly and they are preempted..

  • Guest

    You guys do know, your board just opened itself to a legitimate lawsuit. I don’t mean an ‘iffy’ one, I mean your board just screwed up.

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