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Virginia Beach School Board considers extending gun-free zone protections

Tuesday night, Virginia Beach School Board discussed proposed changes to increase protections.

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. — Tuesday night, the Virginia Beach School Board discussed proposed changes to increase protections.

There's a proposal on the table seeking to extend gun-free zone protections to any building owned or leased by the school board. 

“The School Board designates any building or property that the School Board owns or leases where employees are regularly present for the purpose of performing their duties, outside of school zones, as gun-free zones.”

The division’s current safety policy states weapons aren’t allowed on school grounds. 

Board Chair Carolyn Rye said the proposed changes came about after the general assembly passed legislation giving school divisions the power to extend gun-free zone protections.

Students and parents with strong feelings on both sides attended Tuesday's meeting and made their voices heard. 

“Law-abiding parents who attend these school board meetings will be defenseless," said Dan Chang.

"Just because you have the right to something does not mean your rights should be unconstrained," said Tonya Rivers. 

The proposed revision also adds school-sponsored events to the policy, but doesn’t specify which.

“At a school event. Does that include the parking lot? If you have prom at the Westin, does that include the whole Westin? Does it cover the parking garage? You have not discussed that in this policy," said Vincent Smith, who was behind a Facebook event page that encouraged the community to speak against the changes at Tuesday’s meeting.

“This amendment should pass with the addition of more information to avoid gray areas," said Ure Emejuru. 

Several organizations were also there, including the Virginia Citizens Defense League and Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America.

“It’s a pro-safety conversation," said Lindsey Nathaniel with Moms Demand Action. “Students come here to speak. Students come here to be recognized.”

“If you can’t protect your life, then it’s not worth much," said Philip Van Cleave with Virginia Citizens Defense League. 

There were also speakers who also brought up the 2019 mass shooting inside neighboring Municipal Center Building 2.

Some argued what happened is an example of the senseless gun violence they want to prevent.

Others mentioned that incident as an example of when self-defense would be at play.

On the dais, board members feel split on the issue.

Several of them made arguments for and against the proposed changes, expressing similar points to those who spoke during public comment. 

The school board did not vote on the amendment Tuesday night. It's unclear exactly when they will. 

The proposal first must go back to the city attorney's office and a policy review committee to clarify the wording. 

We also asked the division what school-sponsored events are considered gun-free zones under this proposed policy. We are waiting to hear back.

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