[nfbmi-talk] Commission for the Blind
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Thu Jan 28 10:34:22 CST 2010
From: Cannon, Patrick (DELEG) [mailto:
cannonp at michigan.gov
Subject: Commission for the Blind
Blind training center director targeted over target practice
Comments 2 | Recommend 1
Marksmanship class could earn Christine Boone dismissal
January 27, 2010 6:01 PM
KALAMAZOO, Mich. (NEWSCHANNEL 3) - The blind taking target practice? At first it sounds preposterous, but it actually did happen in Kalamazoo and now it has landed the Director of Kalamazoo's Blind Training Center in Hot Water. Christine Boone is the director of the Michigan Commission for the Blind's Training Center in Kalamazoo, and she tells Newschannel 3 that she is facing a disciplinary conference with her superiors because she let some of the training center's students take a marksmanship class. But Boone definitely has some people saying that she didn't do anything wrong.
Boone wasn't available to do an on camera interview with Newschanne 3 today, but she did tell us some details about the case she is now facing. She says that the marksmanship classes with pellet guns were held in the fall of 2009, beginning in September and running until November, when her superiors canceled the classes.
The students only used pellet guns and were supervised by a center employee who Boone says had a carry permit, and was very familiar with firearms. Boone also says that her superiors signed off on the program, but now it appears the classes have earned her an investigation at the state level, because firearms are generally not allowed on state property, and the training center is just that.
Ron Lambe is the Board Chair of The Disability Network, as well as a person who went blind later in life and is an advocate for the blind. After hearing about this investigation, and the potential dismissal of Boone, he did have a reaction.
"There should be absolute access for anyone who wants to participate in anything as long as safety issues are dealt with." said Lambe, who graduated from the training center 5 years ago, and also has established an advocacy group in that time called 'The Blind Starfish' www.blindstarfish.cfsites.org.
Lambe says that to not allow the blind to handle firearms in a controlled setting is unfair, assuming that it's done in a safe environment, "the message being you can do whatever you want to do in this society regardless of your disability." He does admit though that the training center does have a ban on firearms and that firearms are banned from state land.
Lambe's position is echoed by one person who feels everyone should be allowed access for guns, the Co-Owner of On Target Guns, Jeff Cramer. Speaking to Newschannel 3 Cramer admitted that he wouldn't have a problem with the blind getting the experience of shooting a gun, since there is far more to it, then just using your eyes and setting your sights on a target.
"They probably like to experience a lot of things it's a lot of sensation to it beyond that they're fairly harmless in a controlled environment," said Cramer.
Neither Lambe nor Cramer are thrilled that Boone is facing disciplinary action over the marksmanship class, especially since it was done with pellet guns, at what is considered the safest environment for the blind, the Kalamazoo Blindness training center.
Lambe in particular says if the commission did initially sign off on it, the students should have been allowed to shoot, "if the approvals were obtained and waivers relative to the law ....then again it would fall into why shouldn't they."
Lambe supports the range of activities that are offered at the center, and insists that Boone and her staff would never put any students in harm's way.
"There is a terrific staff of dedicated people there that take every possible concern precaution relative to student safety," said Lambe.
The center has done risky activities in the past, it took a group of students skydiving in 2008 near Hastings, and Lambe admits many would consider that far more dangerous than firing a pellet gun.
The incident and reaction prompted skepticism, and a bit of incredulousness from Cramer who believes Boone certainly didn't do anything horribly wrong.
"It sounds rather silly to me. And I'm sure that when clearer heads put their minds together sure they'll rectify it, it sounds like someone who just doesn't like firearms, and they're carrying it over into something as simple as airguns," said Cramer.
While Lambe continued to emphasize that it's about access to all activities as long as the law is obeyed, and approvals are met.
"People with all disabilities should have open access to participate in all recreational and social activity as they wish with reasonable accommodation... under the big umbrella of all activities and access to all, this certainly falls," said Lambe.
Newschannel 3 Contacted the Michigan Commission for the Blind, which falls under the purview of the Michigan Department of Energy, Labor and Economic Growth to get a statement, but were told that there would be no comment on this case, saying it was a personnel review, and an open investigation.
Mario Morrow the spokesperson for DELEG did say that Boone had been placed on paid administrative leave, and that her hearing, originally scheduled for Jan 28 had been postponed until February 4th. Boone did tell Newschannel 3 that she applied for an extension, and has retained an attorney, Anne Marie Mizel, from the law firm of Stokes, Roberts and Wagner in Pittsburgh. Mizel's bio says that she has expertise in civil rights, employment law and civil procedure
Mario L. Morrow
Director of Communications
Senior Policy Executive
(517) 373-9280 Telephone
Department of Energy,Labor & Economic Growth
611 W. Ottawa Street 4th Floor
Lansing, MI 48933
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