By: Robert Davis
Ascent Classic Academy, a charter school in Douglas County, Colorado, has been asked to leave its school district for allowing its teachers to concealed carry guns on campus.
The decision is one of the first major shakeups to the school district under new Superintendent Thomas Tucker’s leadership.
“In Colorado, parents have the choice of which schools they want to send their children to,” Laura Carno, Executive Director of FASTER Colorado, a firearms training program for teachers and school faculty, told Gunpowder Magazine.
“Some of those parents choose to send their children to school where the staff is armed, but this superintendent gave those parents zero choice in this matter.”
Under C.R.S. 22-36-101, parents can choose which school they want their kids to attend as long as the school is within their district, a process that is also referred to as “Open Enrollment.”
For many parents, the ability to choose what school their child attends gives them peace of mind, especially when it comes to the safety of their children.
“It makes me feel confident, dropping off my kids at school and being able to walk away and know that somebody is there that’s trained, well-trained [with a firearm],” one mother told ABC 7.
Colorado law also gives school boards the authority to write their own policies regarding admittance of pupils, proficiency ratings, and regulations regarding firearms on campus.
It is generally illegal to knowingly possess firearms on school grounds in Colorado under C.R.S 18-12-105.5, however, there are exceptions for school resource officers, persons using firearms for educational purposes, or employees who have written permission to carry the weapon.
Currently, 30 school districts allow teachers to carry firearms, though there is no state oversight.
Ascent Classic Academy is the only school is Douglas County that has an armed staff policy.
Board Fighting Back
Though the laws allowing school districts to write their own firearm policies are 16 years old in some cases, Superintendent Tucker is forcefully pushing back.
“We will fight tooth and nail if any school, whether it is a neighborhood school or a charter school, that decides to arm its teachers,” Tucker said during a state school safety committee hearing at the Colorado State Capitol. "If it’s a charter school, we are going to ask that they leave the Douglas County School District.”
Charter schools operate via a contract with authorizers such as a local school district, or in some cases, the Colorado Charter School Institute. This relationship gives authorizers the authority to amend these contracts as they see fit.
The most recent contract for Ascent Classical Academy, adopted in August 2017, is silent on allowing armed teachers on campus. It does contain, however, a clause that the contract is governed by Colorado law, which generally does not allow for firearms on school campuses. Former versions of the contract allowed the school to apply for a waiver to allow their teachers to carry concealed on campus.
’Elections Have Consequences’
The charter school issue is indirectly akin to a similar issue in Douglas County—the county sheriff Tony Spurlock supporting the state’s Extreme Risk Protection Orders, or red flag law, while most of the county does not support the policy.
Carno says the political leanings of the school board do not directly represent the voters in the county, which is why she also says resolving this issue is fairly simple: if you’re a parent who supports arming teachers, then you need to show up to local school board meetings and let your voice be heard.
“Our school board members are all elected officials,” she said. “If parents organize and show up to school board meetings voicing their support for armed teachers, that’s a big carrot for the board members. Elections have consequences.”
Robert Davis is a general assignment reporter for Gunpowder Magazine. You can contact him with tips or comments at RobertDavis0414 (at) gmail dot com.