EVANSTON — Uinta County School District No. 1 has again been sued over Rule CKA, which allows for approved staff to carry concealed firearms on district property. The latest suit was filed in Third District Court on Monday, Aug. 26 — the first day of school — by multiple plaintiffs, including local attorney Tim Beppler and retired teacher Katie Beppler, individually and on behalf of their minor grandchildren, as well as parents Nathan Prete (individually and on behalf of his minor children) and Tiffany Eskelson-Maestas (also individually and on behalf of her minor children).

The suit, filed by plaintiffs’ legal counsel The Rose Law Firm and Fox Rothschild LLP, alleges that Rule CKA violates the Wyoming Administrative Procedures Act (WAPA) in multiple ways, including that it violates the Wyoming Constitution and Wyoming Statute 21- 3-132 — the legislation that paved the way for school districts to adopt rules regarding concealed carry of firearms. The suit also claims the rule is “arbitrary and capricious and/or an abuse of discretion” and fails to follow procedures required by the WAPA.

A policy allowing for concealed carry of firearms was first adopted by the UCSD No. 1 School Board in March 2018; however, following an initial legal challenge, that policy was declared null and void in October of last year after Judge Nena James ruled the district had failed to follow WAPA rulemaking requirements.

Subsequent to that ruling, the district again pursued a concealed carry rule, which was unanimously approved by the school board on April 9 of this year.

The latest lawsuit alleges Rule CKA is in violation of Article 1, Sections 2 and 23, of the Wyoming Constitution because it violates equal protection rights of parents and students and “subjugates the right of those parents and students” who don’t want to be educated in a setting with “armed civilian employees” to those who do, thus treating similarly situated parents and students differently.

The suit further states that, by law, any action that interferes with the right to an equal opportunity to a proper public education “must be closely examined before it can be said to pass constitutional muster,” and to do so, the district “must establish that Rule CKA furthers a compelling state interest and is the least onerous means of accomplishing that objective” — criteria the suit alleges have not been met.

Plaintiffs in the case further allege that W.S. 21-3-132, the enabling legislation passed by the Wyoming Legislature in 2017, requires that school districts establish instructor qualifications, which Rule CKA fails to do.

As to the claim that Rule CKA is arbitrary and capricious, court documents state that WAPA rulemaking requires a “factual, rational basis supported by evidence in the Administrative Record, and, indeed, Defendant disregarded, deflected, and mischaracterized evidence demonstrating that Rule CKA would make students and schools less safe.”

To illustrate the claim the district did not base the rule on evidence, the suit points to three specific areas. First, it claims that, while the rule requires firearms training, it does not specifically require training or proficiency in school shooting scenarios. Second, the suit states the rule doesn’t require training or proficiency in providing emergency medical attention to gunshot wound victims, and there is no indication the district ever even considered the issue, in spite of evidence presented to the board in a school safety study.

 

By Sheila McGuire

Uinta County Herald