ALEDO, Ill. — Mercer County school board members have advanced a plan to arm certain staff members who pass a concealed carry program.

The resolution supports and advocates for legislation giving school boards the option to develop Student Safety and Protection Plans for administrators, faculty and other staff who have completed an approved training course above and beyond concealed carry training.

The selected staff also would have to pass the multiple background checks and qualifications required for a concealed carry license and have a current concealed carry license issued under the Law Enforcement Officers Safety Act.

After a lengthy discussion, the board voted 4-1 to advance the measure.

Proponents of the measure noted the distance between schools and local law enforcement officials. The high school currently has one school resource officer present two to four hours per day, but no officers in the junior high in Joy or the New Boston elementary school.

"Our square miles make us the fifth largest school district in Illinois, based on area," the board stated in its rationale for the measure. "Three buildings sit in a town with its own police force that is also the county seat and home of the sheriff’s department. Our fourth building is in another town 10 minutes away.

"Our fifth building, an elementary school, is in a town 21 minutes away," the district stated. "The town has one officer and is backed up by the sheriff’s department with an approximately 20-minute response time to get there.”

The resolution does not force or require the school district or board to develop or implement an armed staff plan. Instead, it asks that Illinois school districts be allowed to determine "what is best for them, rather than those in Springfield who do not know or understand communities outside their own."

The Illinois Gun Free School Zone act of 1990 makes it illegal for anyone to knowingly possess a firearm within 1,000 feet of a school zone. There are exceptions to the law that allow a teacher to bring a gun to school as part of an approved program being given in the classroom.

The statement of rationale said at least 18 states currently allow armed adults on school property with relatively minor conditions.

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