September 19, 2007 / 1:16 AM / 12 years ago

Oregon teacher fights to take gun to class

PORTLAND, Oregon (Reuters) - An Oregon high school teacher on Tuesday sued for her right to bring a gun into the classroom for personal protection, clashing with anti-gun advocates fighting for years to rid U.S. schools of weapons.

The teacher, who has a legal permit to carry a concealed handgun, filed a lawsuit against the Medford school district in southwestern Oregon to overturn the district’s rule that prohibits teachers from bringing a weapon onto school grounds.

The standoff between the teacher and the school district has grabbed the attention of both sides of the national gun debate.

After a student shot dead 32 people at Virginia Tech University in April, some pro-gun advocates have argued that teachers and perhaps students should be armed to prevent such tragedies in the future.

“The right to protect yourself is natural, God-given and should not be taken away,” said Kevin Starrett, executive director of the Oregon Firearms Federation, which is paying for the teacher’s legal bills.

“State law unequivocally allows her to do this,” he said.

School safety became a national issue after the 1999 shootings at Columbine High School in Colorado in which two students killed 13 people. Anti-gun advocates used the tragedy as an example of the need for tighter gun controls.

The teacher’s identity is being concealed to protect her from an abusive ex-husband who has made threats against her and her two children. She said the school district cannot adequately protect her.

The lawsuit was filed in Oregon’s state Circuit Court in Jackson County and a hearing is set for mid-October.

The 12,370-student school district argues that being gun-free is a condition of her employment.

“We are saying that the school district has the right to regulate the conduct of its employees to foster a safe environment for students and staff,” said Tim Gerking, the school district’s attorney.

“If they prevail, will other staff members also want to start carrying weapons? What might happen if the gun got into the wrong hands?” said Gerking.

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