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Judge rules teacher cannot bring gun to school
PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) - An English teacher in Southern Oregon has no right to take her semiautomatic handgun onto school grounds, a judge said Friday in a ruling that may clarify a possible conflict between school policy and state law on concealed weapons.
Shirley Katz claimed she had a right to carry a handgun, as a defense against intruders or her former husband, despite Medford School District policy against teachers carrying weapons.
Her attorney, James Leuenberger, argued that only the Legislature, not local governments, can regulate firearms under state law.
But Jackson County Circuit Judge G. Philip Arnold ruled Friday that an ordinance is different from a school district employment policy for its teachers.
"The district has the right to enforce its policy," Arnold wrote to conclude his nine-page ruling.
State law does not prohibit carrying a gun in school if the owner has a concealed weapon permit issued by a county sheriff.
But the Medford School District has a policy that prohibits employees from carrying firearms. Teachers or staff could face disciplinary action or be fired for violating the policy.
Tim Gerking, the school district's lawyer, welcomed the ruling.
"Allowing staff to carry weapons into school buildings wouldn't enhance safety, it would only make it worse," Gerking said. "We'd have a completely new risk of accidental injuries as a result of these weapons."
Leuenberger said he planned to appeal.
"I think the judge obviously is wrong," Leuenberger said. "To make a big difference between a policy and an ordinance makes no sense. This is just an antigun decision."
Katz has said she obtained the Glock 9mm handgun - favored by many police departments - to protect herself against alleged threats from her ex-husband during their divorce in 2004. The ex-husband has denied the allegations, but a judge granted a restraining order against him that since has expired.
Arnold noted in his ruling that Katz's "personal problems are not a factor in deciding this case" and that, "likewise, the wisdom of the district's policy is not a factor ... the issue before this court is whether or not the state statute prohibits the district from having its policy ... ."
Most Oregon school districts have policies against guns on school grounds.
A spokeswoman for state school Superintendent Susan Castillo said Oregon Department of Education officials had not seen the ruling and could not comment.