LEE COUNTY, Va. (WJHL) – A Tri-Cities school leader says the recent school shootings prompted a change in tradition – of raffling off an AR-15 rifle as a high school fundraiser.
It happened in Lee County, Va.
The fundraiser was meant to benefit the Lee High School Student Government Association.
The unusual fundraiser is not sitting well with at least one school board member.
A concerned viewer contacted our newsroom about the raffle to benefit Lee County Schools.
An AR-15 weapon was used to kill 17 people in a Florida high school last month.
The fact it was advertised as the prize for a raffle to benefit the Lee High School Student Government Associated was not a problem for Lee High parent, Tim Long.
He owns one himself.
“I don’t think the problem is an AR-15. I think it’s the one whose handling the AR-15. We definitely have to have a better background check,” Long said.
But the raffle announced in January was a problem for at least one Lee County School Board Member.
“I was, for lack of a better word, I was appalled,” Ty Harber said.
Harber represents District 3 on the Lee County School Board.
“I think we’re sending a bad message here. We stress safety on one hand, and then raffle off weapons,” Harber said.
After News Channel 11 asked questions about the raffle on Monday – Superintendent Brian Austin issued a statement to us.
The statement says in part that similar raffles have been held to benefit Lee County Public Schools for more than ten years – and all proceeds have been used to benefit students.
But he said in light of the recent school shootings – administrators changed the prize.
Instead, giving a gift card that can be used to purchase anything at Liberty Sports and Pawn in Pennington Gap. Guns and ammo – a big part of what the business sells but a sign out front says they also sell tools and jewelry.
School Board member Ty Harber said he questioned the raffle when he found out about it last Friday.
“I was told that they had done it in the past and my response was that’s no reason to continue doing it because times have certainly changed,” Harber said.
He also told us he’s not against guns, and he owns one. He’s against the school being involved with weapons in any way.
Harber tells us at this Thursday’s school board meeting, if asked, he’d like to voice his concerns even though the superintendent is already aware of how he feels.