Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Residents Feel Excluded from Debate over Student Drills with Wooden Guns

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Residents Feel Excluded from Debate over Student Drills with Wooden Guns

Article excerpt

Residents opposed to the University City School Board's recent decision to allow the Brittany Woods drill team to use facsimile rifles have expressed dismay that they were unaware of the debate.

The board voted Oct. 5 to allow the wooden facsimile rifles through this year, but agreed to reconsider the issue for next year.

While they were concerned about the mock rifles, many residents said they were more upset that the board made the decision without placing the item on the meeting agenda.

The residents said they felt this was a controversial issue that should have been fully discussed before a vote. Instead, the residents said, only parents who supported the issue were invited to speak before the board on Oct. 5.

Board President James Cotter said board members did not think the issue was controversial, because they thought it had been resolved at the school level. Cotter said he did not think the issue would be a major topic of discussion.

Superintendent Lynn Beckwith Jr. said he told parents that if they were concerned about the issue to bring the matter to the board meeting.

Resident Nina Balsam said she felt the issue was decided before the board heard both sides of the story.

"If you have an issue that there is controversy about, everyone has to be heard," Balsam said.

Resident Lorraine Gnecco said she made repeated attempts to reach officials at Brittany Woods to gather more information about the issue, but no one returned her calls.

"I think the policy to keep the guns is a secondary issue," Gnecco said. "Since the issue was not on the board agenda, those of us who opposed the policy didn't have a clue that the issue would even come up at the meeting, let alone that the board would vote on it. . . . In a community that often divides on controversial issues, we need to be able to talk with one another. You have deprived all of us that opportunity."

Resident Arlene Sandler said she is concerned that a military attitude is forming in the school district. Sandler said this is a result of the recent addition of a Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps (JROTC) at the high school and now the board's decision in favor of facsimile guns at Brittany Woods. …

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