Citing the death of 11-year-old Sun Prairie Area School District student Anisa Scott, the Sun Prairie School Board on Aug. 24 adopted a resolution in favor of gun control despite the objections of one of its elected members.
Sun Prairie School Board President Steve Schroeder said he worked with Chandramathi Vemuri to craft the resolution, which he said is based on a previous resolution about school violence by former board member Marta Hansen.
The resolution states “our community is in shock and mourning the senseless death of 11 year old Anisa Scott” and that her death “highlights the need for sensible gun legislation.”
The resolution states firearm-related deaths are the third leading cause of death overall among US children aged 1 to 17 years and the second leading cause of injury-related death and points out that from Columbine to Virginia Tech to Sandy Hook to Parkland, the lives of 136 students and school employees have been lost to mass school shootings.
The resolution states the Sun Prairie “Board of Education, administrators, educators, staff, parents, and community members of the SPASD are united in our efforts to provide safe learning environments for all students, staff, parents, visitors, and volunteers” and that “our students, staff, and community members have a right to live in a community where they are not worried about the threat of being shot.”
The resolution states “Sun Prairie Area School District believes that school and community safety is not a political issue and our legislative leaders at the state and federal level have the ability and responsibility to act on behalf of our children” and calls for the “immediate passage” of gun control legislation.
The resolution said the school board and SPASD Administration “support the immediate passage of comprehensive legislation at the state and federal level that effectively addresses our nation’s pervasive gun problem, including but not limited to, legislation that would make universal background checks mandatory, banning assault weapons, and preventing the possibility that any student, teacher, or parent would ever possess a gun on school grounds.”
The resolution received support from former Sun Prairie School Board member and The Piano Gal owner Hansen, who wrote her thoughts to the board for public comment on the item.
“This country has a pervasive gun problem and we are long overdue for common sense legislation,” Hansen wrote. “Our children and schools have been dramatically affected by gun violence for decades and it continues to worsen.
“Gun violence is school shootings yes, but it is also daily gun violence in homes, businesses and now even out in public,” Hansen added in her email to the board. “I support our school district taking a strong stance that pushes our representatives to move forward with legislation that will make our schools safer and will keep guns out of our schools.”
Hansen noted the loss of Scott to gun violence. Scott was shot while traveling in a vehicle in the City of Madison; three male suspects have been arrested in connection with her shooting-related death.
“This cannot happen again and it should never have happened,” Hansen added. “As a district, we must protect our children and taking a stance on creating safer schools and communities is a necessary step. Thank you school board for bringing this resolution forward.”
Sun Prairie School Board Governance Officer Dave Hoekstra spoke against the resolution.
“I’m going to vote against this resolution,” said Hoekstra, who said he is a gun owner, and reminded the board he voted against the school gun violence resolution when Hansen offered it, too.
“Guns are not the problem in my mind — it’s the heinous acts of individuals,” Hoekstra said. He pointed out that some cities that have gun control legislation — including Chicago and Washington DC — have high numbers of shootings or gun-related violence. He argued that additional gun control legislation will do nothing to prevent further gun violence. He said hundreds of people each year go hunting with few incidents — demonstrating the responsible use and ownership of guns.
“I will respectfully vote against this resolution,” Hoekstra said.
Schroeder disagreed with Hoekstra, saying he believed some responsible level of gun legislation — including the prohibition of semi-automatic weapons on the streets — is needed.
Schroeder pointed out the resolution does not advocate taking guns away, or limiting the use of guns for hunting.
Hoekstra disagreed, saying he uses a semi-automatic shotgun for hunting.
“People who don’t know guns — guns scare people,” Hoekstra said.
Schroeder agreed to disagree, and other board members agreed to take the vote on the resolution.
Board members approved the resolution, with Hoekstra’s “no” vote and one board member absent.
Board Treasurer Caren Diedrich asked to send the resolution to all 99 state Assembly representatives and State Senators.
Schroeder said the resolutions are usually sent to the Office of the Governor, the State Assembly Speaker and State Senate Majority Leader as well as the Department of Public Instruction, state Assembly and Senate officials representing Sun Prairie, the Wisconsin Attorney General as well as U.S. Senators Tammy Baldwin and Ron Johnson.