MEDFORD, Ore. (AP) — A retired sheriff's deputy fired for refusing to stop carrying a gun while working in a Medford school said he wanted to be prepared in case the children's safety was threatened.
Donald Later told The Mail Tribune that he didn't apply for the job as a part-time campus monitor at Hedrick Middle School to push for gun rights. But while going through training he was struck by the emphasis put on the children's safety.
He added that he felt he was entitled to carry a gun in school as a law enforcement officer, even though he was retired.
"This is not about me. It's not about guns. It's about whether or not I was acting in accordance with School Board policy," said Later, 64, a retired Jackson County sheriff's deputy and longtime Medford resident. "I don't see how they can say I'm not in compliance."
Medford Schools Superintendent Bill Long disagrees.
"When it comes to someone responsible for our students' safety, we need to know they will follow direction and abide by our safety protocols," he said.
The Medford School Board upheld Later's firing June 18 for continuing to carry a gun after being told not to.
Long said recent violent events on campuses led him to think, "What would I do in that case?"
He went to Long on March 26 to say that he was going to carry a gun on campus.
Long sent a letter mailed to Later's home on April 24 that employees carrying weapons were in violation of School Board Policy GBJ and can be subject to discipline.
After replying to Long's letter, Later went to work for his morning shift and told Principal Dan Smith that he was armed.
Soon afterward, Todd Bloomquist, director of secondary education, arrived on campus and told Later to go home.
Later said he complied.
He was put on paid administrative leave and fired in May.
Later said he felt his case was different than one involving a teacher who wanted to carry a gun to school for self-protection. A Jackson County Circuit Court found in 2007 the Medford schools no-guns policy was not subject to a state law barring local governments from regulating firearms. The ruling was upheld by the Oregon Court of Appeals in 2009.
Information from: Mail Tribune,
Copyright 2013 The Associated Press