Policies Banning Firearms on School Property Upheld by Circuit Court

Brad Banasik

By Brad Banasik, MASB Legal Counsel/Director of Labor Relations & Policy

DashBoard, Oct. 7, 2015

The Ann Arbor Public Schools Board successfully defended its policies that prohibit individuals from possessing a firearm on school property. The policies, which were adopted earlier this year, were challenged by Michigan Gun Owners, Inc. (“Plaintiffs”), who sought a court order to prevent AAPS from enforcing the policies against individuals who possess a Concealed Pistol License and openly carry a firearm on school property. Essentially, the Plaintiffs claimed that the policies were unenforceable and infringed upon a lawful activity, because Michigan law does not make it a crime to openly carry a firearm on school property if an individual possesses a CPL.

The AAPS Board adopted the policies pursuant to its general powers authority under the Revised School Code to protect the safety and welfare of students and to minimize disruption to the district’s educational environment. Thus, while there appears to be a loophole in Michigan law that allows a CPL holder to lawfully openly carry a firearm on school property, the AAPS Board implemented its policies with the belief that the “open carry loophole” is subject to a school board’s broad legal authority and obligation to provide for the safety and welfare of its students while at school.

The Plaintiffs’ complaint was dismissed by Washtenaw County Circuit Court Judge Carol Kuhnke. As a result of the judge’s order, AAPS may enforce its policies banning weapons on school property. A circuit court is not bound by a decision of another circuit court, so the order only applies to legality of Ann Arbor’s policies.

Under the order, Ann Arbor can likely enforce its local policies by pursuing trespass claims for policy violations and by relying on a city ordinance that regulates unauthorized persons on school property. This ordinance provides that:

(1) a person creating a disturbance on school property shall leave immediately when so directed by the principal or any other person designated by the principal, and

(2) that it is unlawful for any person to remain in a school building or on school property within 250 feet of a school building, after being requested to leave by the principal or his or her designee.

The MASB Legal Trust Fund supported AAPS in this case by filing an amicus curiae brief. MASB’s brief emphasized that the authority to regulate the possession of weapons on school property is and should remain with local school boards.

This ruling, along with a Genesee County Circuit case that ruled against the Clio Area Public Schools’ policies regulating firearm possession, will be considered and decided by the appellate courts. MASB will continue to monitor the cases and will likely participate as an amici party when the cases are before the Michigan Court of Appeals.

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