Brett Reese isn’t allowed to bring his gun to school.
Because he can’t, under Colorado law, Greeley school board members on Thursday approved a measure that will prevent their controversial colleague from bringing his gun to board meetings as well.
By a 5-2 vote, with Reese casting one of the dissenting votes, board members approved a plan to hold their meetings at various schools throughout the district for the rest of this year. Colorado law prohibits anyone, with some exceptions such as police and school district safety officers, from carrying a gun into a school.
Reese, owner of KELS 104.7 FM (Pirate Radio), said he has received death threats as recently as Wednesday after he broadcast statements critical of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. before Monday’s national holiday and he wants to carry a weapon into meetings for protection.
He also said he is mindful of the December incident at a Florida school board meeting in which an armed man terrorized board members.
“I see it over and over,” he said, criticizing his fellow board members as “preventing Brett Reese from defending himself.”
He also asserted his Second Amendment right to bear arms. “The arrogance of this board is manifest,” he said. “They are placing themselves above Colorado statutes and the Constitution.”
Afterward, Reese said that if he had been armed at that meeting in Panama City, Fla., he could have prevented the attack. The gunman fired several shots at board members, hitting none of them, before return fire from the district security chief stopped the assault. The gunman then committed suicide with a gunshot wound to the head.
Reese accused the board of “wasting time” on this issue. “If you think I might shoot a board member, then you have a trust issue,” he said. He said board members are telling him they are scared of him.
He termed the resolution, and two others presented by Superintendent Ranelle Lang, as unnecessary and indicative of “poor decision-making” by the board.
“If you think I might shoot a board member, then you have a trust issue.”
– Brett ReeseReese did agree in principle with holding meetings in schools because it would, he said, get the board out of the “ivory tower” in the district’s administration building, where meetings are normally held. But he also stated he did not favor the measure because the board did not consider the cost of providing protection for board members at the school sites.
Lang said an armed police officer will be attending board meetings at no cost to the district in “the short term.” Roger Fiedler, the district’s communications director, said an armed district safety officer has been attending board meetings since the Florida incident.
Fielder admitted Thursday’s meeting was moved from the administration building to an elementary school to prevent Reese or any other board member from bringing a gun to the meeting. There is no explicit prohibition in Colorado law against carrying a gun into a school district administration building, he said.
Lang said this measure also will allow the district time to investigate changes in Colorado law regarding bringing a gun or any other weapon into district administration buildings. She said the legal opinions on this issue are unclear. Efforts to ban guns on the University of Colorado campuses, for example, have been appealed to the state Supreme Court.
Reese was joined by board member Robert Stack in voting against the move to the schools, but Stack said his priority was safety “now.” He favored revisions in policies that would bring all school facilities under an “umbrella” of protection, he said.
“Security to me is of the utmost importance,” Stack said. “This entire topic would have come up sooner or later, but the action of one individual has pushed it to the forefront.”
He said he hoped that any revisions, either in law or policy, would affect all faculty, students and staff members of the district. He worried that students taking field trips to district buildings not covered by the gun injunction could be at risk. He said the board needed to take a stand.
The option to move board meetings to schools was the third of three options presented by Lang at the special meeting to deal with the gun issue.
One option called for the installation of metal detectors at all locations in the district as well as people to staff them. Lang estimated that annual personnel costs for staffing the metal detectors would run as high as $200,000 annually. Buying the equipment would cost as much as $10,000, she said.
Another option would have revised Board Policy KFA to prohibit firearms in any district building, not just the schools. But Lang said adopting such a policy “might be in conflict with the wording of current state law” and further research is prudent.
Lang recommended the third option, moving the board’s meeting locations, because it would allow the “district community to refocus its attention on our primary education mission” and would buy the district time to consider other options. Board member Julie Kron asked for, and received, assurances from Lang that adopting her recommendation did not rule out further action by the board.
Despite announcing her support of Lang’s recommended option, board member Julia Richard said that further action “needed to be taken at the state level.” Kron said she supported the option because she “felt strongly that we should not be committing additional resources” to the issue.
Reese said he abides by the prohibition against guns in schools and will abide by it in the future. But because of 10 to 12 death threats he has received since his radio broadcasts about King, he also said he is armed when he is not on school property.
Reese’s gun permit, though, has been temporarily withdrawn by authorities because of a request for a restraining order brought by a rival radio station owner. The rival owner said Reese left him messages threatening a “shootout” because he was allegedly pilfering advertisers away from Reese.
Reese said Thursday’s meeting seemed to be “pre-scripted” and that other board members might be seeking “publicity” from the whole issue. When asked if he felt safe with an armed official at the meeting, he said he felt he “was not as safe as if I had a gun.”
The 40-year-old ex-carpenter, who was elected to the school board in 2009, also said he expects to court controversy in the future because he is a radio station owner with opinions to express.
The board’s action coincided with an editorial in Thursday’s Greeley Tribune, which called for moving meetings to district schools until Reese left the board.