Two members of the Watchung Hills Regional Board of Education balked as the majority passed a resolution this week expressing its support for adminstrative and legislative steps to control gun violence endorsed last week by President Barack Obama.
The resolution "is expressing a concern of the horrific actions and nothing more, nothing less," according to board President Robert Horowitz. Its passage puts the board on record as supportive of the "proposed legislation and the issuance of nineteen (19) Executive Orders aimed at better regulating guns and gun safety, along with citizens’ access to certain types of firearms" and will be forwarded to lcoal, state and federal officials, as well as school boards associations.
But members Peter Falzarano, of Long Hill Township, and Gregory Przybylski, of Warren, voted against the resolution, in part for technical concerns with the resolutions but primarily because they viewed it as a political message.
"It just speaks to a tremendous problems and the fact that the care and safety of our children is paramount," Horowitz said. He said he was reminded of a quote by Mahatmi Ghandi noting "while we can't in and of ourselves individually change or guarantee safety," it's more important to try to "do the right thing."
Falzarano said the school has been at the forefront of school safety for many years, being the first to add school resource officers, and has one of the most sophisticated camera security systems.
Dr. Przybylski also took issue with some of the text of the resolution, noting the resolution is not a statement of the 10 members of the board, but—quoting from the resolution—"on behalf of the nearly 2,500 total students and faculty members."
"I don't know if they had input into this resolution, I don't know if they had opportunity to comment, but certainly I'm not prepared to put something forward on behalf of a large group of people who have not had an opportunity to look at this," he said.
Board Vice-President Harold Grossnickle said he was impressed by a statement by the superintendent of the Newtown, Conn., district when she spoke about the "need for action."
"I think that's it's very unlikely that members of our community, members of our staff, our students and other people wouldn't wonder what the position of their board is, wouldn't wonder what their thinking is," he said.
Dr. Przybylski said he appreciated the point but that "this is a political issue, people have
"This is a Constitutional issue, a legislative issue...this is not a board of education issue," he said.
Falzarano and Dr. Przybylski voted against the measure, while all others voted in favor.
The complete text of the resolution is:
WHEREAS, recent tragedies of an unimaginable scale, including the mass shootings in Aurora, Colorado and Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, have acted as a national catalyst for renewed efforts to reduce violence caused by, or related to, the use and ownership of firearms; and
WHEREAS, President Obama recently announced a “gun control initiative,” involving both proposed legislation and the issuance of nineteen (19) Executive Orders aimed at better regulating guns and gun safety, along with citizens’ access to certain types of firearms; and
WHEREAS, President Obama’s Executive Orders specifically direct that Federal funds be used for programs and assessments intended to better understand the use of firearms in this country and for research and programs related to gun violence, an individual’s use of guns and whether access to firearms should be limited, among other things; and
WHEREAS, the legislation proposed by President Obama seeks to limit or ban private ownership of military-style assault weapons and armor-piercing bullets, along with the institution of mandatory background checks for all gun owners; and
WHEREAS, Boards of Education throughout New Jersey and the United States have a unique interest in ensuring the safety and security of the school districts’ children and staff; and
WHEREAS, incidents such as those which occurred at Sandy Hook Elementary School, Virginia Tech University and Columbine High School, among many others, illustrate the very real need for school districts to be vigilant in protecting its students and staff against gun violence; and
WHEREAS, the Watchung Hills Regional Board of Education believes that the safety and security of the District’s students and staff members is of the utmostconcern; and
WHEREAS, the Watchung Hills Regional Board of Education believes that President Obama’s gun control initiatives are an important and necessary step in reaching its goal that the District’s schools be a safe haven for students and staff and free from gun violence;
NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED, that by passage of this Resolution, the Watchung Hills Board of Education expresses its full support of President Obama’s gun control initiatives as an important and necessary step towards limiting or eliminating gun violence in our country and in our country’s schools and public areas; and
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that on behalf of the nearly 2,500 total students and faculty members in the District, the Watchung Hills Regional Board of Education urges its Federal legislators, specifically, Senators Robert Menendez and Frank Lautenberg and House of Representatives Member Leonard Lance, to support and approve President Obama’s gun control initiative and to vote in the affirmative for the passage President Obama’s proposed legislation with regard to gun control; and
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that the Watchung Hills Regional Board of Education urges its State representatives – Governor Chris Christie, Senator Thomas Kean, Senator Nicholas P. Scutari, Assemblyman Jon M. Bramnick, Assemblywoman Nancy F. Munoz, Assemblyman Jerry Green and Assemblywoman Linda Stender, to both express their support for the passage of Federal gun control legislation and to develop and introduce bills in the New Jersey Legislature intended to address and limit the issue of gun violence and gun ownership in the State and more specifically, as it relates to the schools of New Jersey; and
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that the Watchung Hills Regional Board of Education urges other New Jersey school districts to adopt a similar resolution in an effort to convince the State’s Federal legislators to support President Obama’s gun control initiatives and to convince the New Jersey Legislature to introduce legislation to address the issues raised herein; and
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that the Board Secretary shall forward a copy of this Resolution to our State and Federal Representatives and Congressional Delegation, the New Jersey School Boards Association, local municipal leaders and the County Office of Education.