District U46 eyes new policies on marijuana, guns, school names

ELGIN — The state General Assembly may have legalized “medical marijuana” and the “concealed carry” of guns. But the schools in Elgin District U46 might remain marijuana- and gun-free zones.

A committee composed of 10 school board members and administrators on Monday submitted five proposed new official policies. They cover the topics of medical marijuana, firearms, naming schools, (racial and ethnic) equity and use of dual languages.

The school board is expected to discuss the proposed new policies more and vote whether to make them official on July 7.

Marijuana

The recently approved Compassionate Use of Medical Cannabis Pilot Program Act allows registered patients and caregivers to use and possess marijuana to treat certain illnesses. But one proposed U46 policy basically says that U46 employees need to do any of that on their own time and on their own property, and they can’t work while under the influence.

The proposed new policy would state that “although no employee is prohibited from exercising any rights under the act, including the right to obtain a valid registry identification card under the act, all district employees, including valid registry identification cardholders, are prohibited from the following, regardless of whether or not they are a valid registry identification cardholder:

“Possessing, using, or being under the influence of a controlled substance, including medical marijuana, on any school grounds, including any building, real property, school bus or other transportation vehicle, or parking area under the control of the district (a) while at any school-related function, or (b) while acting as an employee of the district;

“Possessing, using or being under the influence of any controlled substance, including medical marijuana, at any time or in any place in a manner that is otherwise prohibited or subject to discipline by school district policy or procedure.”

Any employee found possessing or being under the influehce would be “subject to discipline, up to and including termination,” the proposed policy states.

Concealed guns

The new statewide okay for concealed weapons also will have no impact on U46 schools, according to the proposed new firearms policy.

The Firearms Concealed Carry Act was passed last summer after a federal appeals court declared Illinois’ total ban on concealed guns unconstitutional. It already does list schools — along with courts, government buildings, parks and prisons — as places where guns will continue to be banned. But the proposed new policy recognizes the new law and states how it specifically applies to District U46.

“All persons on school property, including students, teachers, other district staff members, parents, volunteers and other district visitors, are prohibited from carrying a firearm into or onto any school building, real property or parking area under the control of School District U46, unless specifically permitted by state or federal law,” the proposed policy states. “This prohibition applies to all firearms, including concealed firearms for which a person has a concealed-carry license.

“Any employee of District U46, including teachers or other staff, who is found to be in violation of this policy will be subject to discipline, up to and including termination. Any parent or visitor to school property who is found to be in violation of this policy will be subject to consequences, including but not limited to those provided in the Firearm Concealed Carry Act. Any student who is found to be in violation of this policy will be subject to the Code of Student Conduct, up to and including expulsion.”

School names

This year’s decision to rename Sheridan Elementary School in Elgin after former Sheridan and Elgin High principal Ron O’Neal focused new attention on the policy for choosing school names.

Chief of Staff Tony Sanders said lessons learned during the debate about the Sheridan renaming led the committee to suggest some adjustments. The policy would specify two different procedures — one for naming brand-new schools and another for renaming schools that already exist. Both would involve public input.

Sanders said that during one of the public hearings on the Sheridan-O’Neal change, one audience member suggested renaming the school after somebody other than O’Neal. As a result, the proposed new naming policy states that when a building has been renamed, it cannot come under consideration to be renamed again for at least 10 years.

But an objection to that clause came, oddly enough, from school board member Traci O’Neal Ellis, who is the daughter of the late Ron O’Neal.

Ellis said it could be desirable to re-name a school in fewer than 10 years if some scandalous or shameful new information about the original honoree should come to light.

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