School officials are no fans of gun ban signs
BY DONNA VICKROY firstname.lastname@example.org February 2, 2014 4:48PM
Updated: March 4, 2014 6:11AM
A black gun with a red slash through it.
It is a sign of the times, as well as a sign that is sure to become ubiquitous.
School officials want the public to know that in compliance with state law (House Bill 0183), schools, churches, government agencies and liquor stores statewide will be posting 4-by-6-inch stickers reminding the public, particularly those with a concealed-carry license, that there are limits on where a gun can be carried.
While schools didn’t allow guns even before the concealed-carry law was passed, they still are required to display the reminder. Some officials are questioning the mandate, and some find the sticker image disturbing.
Several Southland schools already have the stickers posted at entryways, including Reavis High School in Burbank, Incarnation School in Palos Heights, all four Lincoln-Way high schools, schools in North Palos School District 117, schools across Oak Lawn and Hometown, plus Eisenhower High School in Blue Island, Richards High School in Oak Lawn and Shepard High School in Palos Heights.
Others expect to have them visible within the next few weeks.
While complying with state law isn’t a point of contention, some school administrators find the sticker’s image to be a bit alarming.
“One of my biggest concerns as a principal is safety and security,” Tinley Park High School Principal Theresa Nolan said. “It is bothersome to have to post a sticker of a gun that says, ‘Hey, folks, leave your guns at home.’ ”
Nolan said she is not opposed to posting it, she’s just worried that not enough people are aware of what it means and could misinterpret the new signage.
“I think the general public will be alarmed by it and wonder if people have been allowed to bring guns to school in the past,” she said. In her 22 years with Bremen Community High School District 228, she said, “I have no knowledge of guns ever being in this building.”
Nolan, and others, take issue with the sticker’s design.
“I would have appreciated something more subtle, yet still recognizable — a logo, perhaps, not a gun,” she said.
“You can’t look at this (sticker) and not think about Sandy Hook,” she said, referring to the 2012 school shooting in Newton, Conn., in which 20 children and six teachers were killed.
Tinley Park Associate Principal Randy Couwenhoven said, “The intent of the stickers is to inform those with a concealed-carry license that they are not allowed to bring a gun into this location. It is a reminder to this particular audience, an audience that should already know this.”
Because the law extends the gun ban to all school property, including football stadiums and parking lots, Nolan said it won’t be long before schools are posting this same symbol, at their own expense, at those locations, as well.
Tinley Park Police Chief Steve Neubauer said the design was developed by the Illinois State Police. Certain entities, including schools, churches and government agencies, as well as liquor stores, are required to post them. But any business owner can download the image from the state police website and post it if they desire their property to be gun-free.
Neubauer said the law also bans guns at public events, so people can expect to see the image posted at entry points to parades and festivals, including the village’s summer Caribbean Beach block party.
Some schools, including Oak Lawn High School and those in Oak Lawn-Hometown District 123, alerted staff, parents and students via newsletters and announcements before the stickers went up.
“It is not necessarily something you’d want on a school building,” District 123 Supt. Paul Enderle said. “But it correlates with the law, and I think if it ultimately helps to keep schools safe, that’s the objective.”
In Community High School District 218, which includes Shepard, Richards and Eisenhower, the topic was addressed during parent meetings. Supt. John Byrne agreed the sticker is “abrupt when you first see it.
“But I think it is probably less glaring to kids than to parents,” he said. “Kids are more aware of symbols and what they mean than older people might be.”
The image can be frightening, Byrne said, “but if it keeps the world safer, that’s OK. The No. 1 thing we do for kids in general is keep their school safe. We don’t want schools to become like airports but we should make some reasonable efforts. If it’s reasonable to tell people this is a safe, no-gun zone, then we’ll do it.”
In some ways, he said, “it is a sad editorial on humanity” that people need to be reminded that weapons are not allowed in schools. Then again, he said, the world has not been the same since 9/11.
“That event traumatized the nation and maybe rightly so,” he said. “It made us aware of things going on around the world.”
Lincoln-Way Community High School District 210 spokeswoman Stacy Holland said the stickers have been posted at entryways to all four high schools with little fanfare. They are posted next to the stickers that remind students and visitors that smoking is not allowed and that hats need to be removed before entering the building, she said.