New policy bars armed students

Board: Public allowed to carry guns at school

MILFORD – Non-students can have guns on school grounds if they have valid concealed carry permits, the School Board decided Monday night as they put together a revised policy on weap­ons in schools.

That’s because, under state law, members of the public with valid con­cealed carry permits are allowed to have guns in school zones.

The federal Gun Free School Zones Act only applies to students, the board decided, while state law applies to non-students.

The new policy says a student who brings a fire­arm to school faces expul­sion.

School officials started looking at their policy cov­ering weapons on school property after state elec­tion officials issued a statement last month say­ing New Hampshire elec­tion laws don’t prohibit a voter from bringing a gun into a polling place locat­ed in a school.

The School Board held a first reading of the new policy after a long discus­sion Monday night that included Milford Police Chief Michael Viola and Capt. Shawn Pelletier.

"One of the key items noted was that the Gun Free School Zones Act only applies to students, not to non-students," Chairman Paul Dargie said in an email. "Stu­dents (even those that are over 18) are not allowed to have firearms in school zones. Non-students are governed by state law. The result of that is that non-students are allowed to have guns in school zones if they have a valid con­cealed carry permit."

Barrett Christina, of the New Hampshire School Boards Association, helped the board clarify the legalities.

One change from the state School Boards As­sociation policy, Dar­gie said, is that Milford does not include aerosol self-defense devices as banned items.

The policy is actually silent on the topic of non-students with guns or firearms, so it is con­sistent with state law, he said.

"I’m guessing that the original drafter of the policy did not want to ad­vertise that guns were al­lowed on school grounds by people with concealed carry permits, so they just did not mention that fact," he said.

"I have to respect what the law is," Schools Su­perintendent Robert Mar­quis said later. "My re­sponsibility is to balance (that with) the safety of students and staff."

If a person with a fire­arm tried to enter a school building, he said, police would have to de­termine what to do. One confounding issue, Mar­quis said, is that while non-firearm weapons, such as pocket knives, are prohibited in schools under state law, guns are not, although any weap­ons used in a threatening manner are prohibited.

The original Milford School Board policy, ap­proved in 1994 and re­vised in 2008, did not dis­tinguish between firearms and other weapons and prohibited all weapons on school property.

Kathy Cleveland can be reached at 673-3100 or kcleveland@cabinet.com.