Schools encouraged to raise awareness of weapons ban on campus

BILOXI, MS (WLOX) - While educators say schools are exempt from Mississippi's Open Carry Law, there is concern that some people may not realize that. WLOX talked about the new law with school superintendents and state education leaders at a conference in Biloxi this week.

While the fate of the Open Carry Law is still being debated in court, many educators want the public to know when it comes to guns and other weapons on school grounds, there's a zero tolerance policy.

Campus safety was one of the topics discussed at the Mississippi Association of School Superintendents Conference in Biloxi. Also on the minds of some of the educators was Mississippi's Open Carry Law.

"We would like our whole communities in Mississippi to realize that school grounds are exempt from open carry, which means that in the state law, it is against the law to have a firearm on campus. That includes teachers, students, and it includes parents, business people, anybody that comes to a school ground. If they have a gun, they're violating a law," said Dr. Sam Bounds, MASS Executive Director.

Bounds is encouraging superintendents to launch a campaign to inform the public about the current weapons ban at school. Some districts are looking at ways to reinforce that message.

"We do not allow weapons. We never have on campus and that has never changed," said Dr. Rebecca Ladner, Bay-Waveland Schools Superintendent. "So we have current signs up at all of our facilities, including our athletic facilities. Any facility that the district owns already has a sign in place. We would probably be adding to those signs in the near future to make sure they're visible everywhere."

But what happens if a parent or visitor accidentally carries a gun on to school grounds? This is the advice from the State Department of Education.

"We would ask them to leave. If they left, they we'd just proceed with that. We'd probably notify our local officials and everything to make sure they knew that a parent did bring it on campus. And we would work through with the local authorities to see what we could or could not do," said Dr. Larry Drawdy, Interim Deputy State Education Superintendent.

"If the carry law goes into effect, we want to make sure that we've educated our entire communities. So if one happens to make a mistake, and they're stopped at the door, they immediately go back and leave it in their vehicle. It is a violation of state law if they have a weapon on campus. They can be arrested," said Bounds.

Educators are urging visitors to use some common sense.

"If we hurt the feelings of somebody who messes up, I'm sorry, because we got to accept the responsibility. Those kids are ours for seven and a half hours a day and we got to protect them like our own flesh and blood," said Bounds.

More than 1,400 superintendents and certified school administrators are attending the conference this week. Other topics being discussed include the latest technology, boosting student achievement, the new Common Core State Standards, health and fitness, and accreditation. The event ends on Friday.

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