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Ann Arbor — The Ann Arbor Board of Education's decision to ban weapons in public school buildings is intended to clarify the district's position on the controversial issue, the board president said Thursday.

"What this policy will do is clarify our stand on what should occur and why it should occur when a gun is brought into our schools and campuses," school board President Deb Mexicotte told The Detroit News.

In a statement from Ann Arbor Public Schools, the board said it wanted to create a "safe and disruption-free environment" with the new policy, which exempts current and former police officers. Board members said the policy is backed by the community.

"The changes are designed to protect students and district employees from potential acts or threats of violence, ensure a safe and disruption free-environment, and ban possession of dangerous weapons on property owned or leased by Ann Arbor Public Schools," the statement said.

The board met Wednesday evening and voted just after midnight. The issue has been a hot topic of debate since a man with a concealed pistol license brought a gun into Pioneer High School during a choir concert March, which caused a disruption ensued.

The new policies ban any "dangerous weapons" on school property or during school events, allow the superintendent greater power to handle emergencies, and more clearly define schools as safe environments.

"District policy considers the presence of any dangerous weapon as an emergency," the press release said.

Michigan law says any resident who has a concealed pistol license may legally openly carry a gun into a school. It comes amid debate about whether it's appropriate to openly carry firearms in schools. The Legislature could address this issue this year, with both parties planning legislation.

Joshua Wade, who brought the gun to the concert March 5, says the board has no right to ban guns. He said he usually carries a concealed handgun and on Wednesday he told the board there is a real possibility that he would need to defend his life at a school.

Michigan Open Carry Inc., the primary advocacy group challenging "gun-free zones," disputes the legality of the Ann Arbor decision.

"They say they're (within) the scope of the law ... we say they're not," said Tom Lambert, vice president of the organization. "Nothing has changed in the law, they're just trying to find their own loophole.

"We're trying to point out that this isn't a loophole," Lambert added. "The fact that they don't like (the law) doesn't make it a loophole."

ddraplin@detroitnews.com.

Associated Press contributed

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