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School boards wary of Legislature's bills on guns and curriculum

Feb 28, 2013 - By Katie Roenigk, Staff Writer

A bill that would have allowed people to carry guns in schools did not make it through the Wyoming Legislature this session, but education officials said they would have been opposed to the law if it had moved forward.

Fremont County School District 25 Board of Trustees member Carl Manning met with the Wyoming School Board Association in Cheyenne earlier this month to discuss legislation related to education in the state. The group talked about House Bill 105, the Citizens' and Students' Self-Defense Act, which states that district employees and parents can carry firearms on school property with permission from the administration.

Manning said the rules set forth in the legislation were redundant.

"It's already something a school board could do," he said during a District 25 board meeting last week. "If you want to carry a gun, we could give permission for it as long as you (meet) the conditions of the board."

He added that the idea of having guns in school didn't seem safe.

Officials at Central Wyoming College also had expressed concern about the bill, which would have allowed anyone with a valid carry-conceal permit -- including students -- to bear arms on campus.

Energy, Bible classes

Manning said the WSBA was against House Bill 130 and Senate File 55 for similar reasons. The first provided for elective classes in biblical studies, while the other relates to a statewide energy and natural resource education initiative. Manning said the association isn't taking a stance against the concepts behind the bills, but he said officials think curriculum decisions should be made locally.

"The school board association didn't like the idea that (the) Legislature is sort of pushing curriculum," Manning said. "That is a local (task). That's in the constitution of the state for local boards ... to do textbooks and curriculum."

Rose

State school board leaders also had the opportunity to meet with Jim Rose, the man chosen as interim director of the Wyoming Department of Education after legislators voted to change the responsibilities of the Wyoming Superintendent of Public Instruction. Manning said Rose gave a brief overview of his plan for his year in the position and talked about reasons behind modifying the superintendent's job.

"(He said) most superintendents have gone on their own agenda, veering from what the statutes say they should be doing," Manning said.

As a result, Manning said Rose was mandated to develop a WDE that serves a more supportive role in the state.

"How they're going to do that is to try to build back expertise in the Department of Education," Manning said. "The legislature and the governor did not believe there was that expertise in the department and it needed to be rebuilt."

Gov. Matt Mead is expected to name a permanent WDE director by December, and Manning said the WSBA would keep track of progress in that area.