Education Commissioner issues binding Field Memo Alert to school districts asserting students' right to schools that are "free from the threat of physical harm"
PROVIDENCE, RI - Governor Gina M. Raimondo has taken executive and procedural action to ban all firearms, except those carried by law enforcement officers, from public PK-12 school buildings and school grounds. This directive comes in response to uncertainty among education leaders and community stakeholders, and a lack of consistent practice across district lines. Until this directive was issued, Rhode Island was one of only a handful of states that allowed non-law enforcement officials to carry concealed weapons into schools.
"It isn't hard: Guns don't belong in schools. Even Mississippi bans non-law enforcement officials from carrying guns onto school grounds. As we start a new school year, our students cannot wait a minute longer for the General Assembly to take action on the Safe Schools Act. The Rhode Island Department of Education has issued a binding directive to every school district that immediately bans firearms from our kids' schools," said Governor Raimondo. "Since the shooting at Parkland, Rhode Islanders of all ages and all parties have come together to strengthen gun safety and protect our students. As long as I am Governor, I will stand up with teachers, parents, students, law enforcement, doctors, nurses and every day Rhode Islanders for a safer community."
In a Field Memo Alert issued to local education agencies (LEAs) today, Commissioner of Elementary and Secondary Education Ken Wagner stated clearly that "all firearms, including concealed-carry firearms, are hereby banned from all public school buildings and grounds by anyone other than visibly identified active law enforcement officers." The Field Memo Alert seeks to clarify ambiguities and inconsistencies among various state laws and regulations - as well as local district policies - that govern safety and firearms on school grounds. Before issuing the Field Memo Alert, Wagner solicited input and comments from local superintendents, school committee members, teachers and educators, and law enforcement.
"It's our job to protect kids and their teachers," said Wagner. "Inconsistencies among laws, regulations, and local policies and practices create confusion, producing the exact kind of unsafe environment the law is intended to prevent. As we start a new school year, this directive provides clarity, until such time that the underlying laws are reconciled."
Since Governor Raimondo has taken office, Rhode Island has taken steps to strengthen and improve the state's gun safety laws:
-Last year, the Governor supported and signed legislation taking guns away from individuals convicted of domestic violence.
-After the shooting in Parkland, Governor Raimondo was the first governor in America to sign an executive order establishing a Red Flag policy.
-She worked with the legislature, law enforcement and advocates from the Rhode Island Coalition Against Gun Violence and Moms Demand to pass a permanent Red Flag Law that gives the state a mechanism to remove firearms from people who pose a threat to themselves or others.
-Under her direction, the state has banned bump stocks.
-Earlier this month, Governor Raimondo allocated $10 million to fund immediate school safety upgrades.
-Governor Raimondo is also leading the effort to pass a once-in-a-generation school bond that will ensure that every student has an opportunity to attend schools that are safe, warm and dry.