A memo issued to local education departments in Rhode Island on Wednesday reminded school staff members that possession of a firearm on school grounds by anyone who is not a sworn law enforcement officer is prohibited.
The directive was issued by Gov. Gina Raimondo and included in a “field memo” from Ken Wagner, state commissioner of elementary and secondary education. It stated that “all firearms, including concealed-carry firearms, are hereby banned from all public school buildings and grounds by anyone other than visibly-identified active law enforcement officers.”
Wagner and Raimondo said Wednesday that the directive comes in response to uncertainty and concerns expressed by educators to the Rhode Island Department of Education. It was publicly released Wednesday afternoon.
“It’s our job to protect kids and their teachers,” Wagner said. “Inconsistencies among laws, regulations, and local policies and practices create confusion, producing the exact kind of unsafe environment the law is intended to prevent. As we start a new school year, this directive provides clarity, until such time that the underlying laws are reconciled.”
Before issuing the memo, Wagner said he had solicited input and comments from local superintendents, school committee members, educators, and law enforcement officials.
Raimondo said that it was “an easy decision” to issue the directive during the time of back-to-school preparations. She added that banning guns on school grounds should be seen as a common-sense policy that is specifically intended to help keep students safe.
The policy is in line with the state government’s recent efforts in the area of gun safety. Rhode Island legislators in the past year approved a “red flag” policy enabling law enforcement officials to seize firearms from people convicted of domestic violence. The General Assembly also banned bump stocks.
In addition, Raimondo in early August announced an allocation of $10 million that will be used over the course of the next year to upgrade security at schools across the state, including those within the Chariho Regional School District.
“As we start a new school year, our students cannot wait a minute longer for the General Assembly to take action on the Safe Schools Act,” Raimondo said. “The Rhode Island Department of Education has issued a binding directive to every school district that immediately bans firearms from our kids’ schools.”
Rep. Patricia Morgan, R-Warwick, who is seeking the Republican gubernatorial nomination, criticized the policy and asserted that Raimondo was “waging war on the Constitution” — a reference to Second Amendment rights.