Dayton Daily News

Bill would clarify amount of training for armed teachers

- By Anna Staver

Teachers across Ohio already keep guns in their classrooms, but a bill working its way through the state Legislatur­e would clarify how many hours of training they need to do so.

House Bill 99 would require school staff to have a concealed carry license before they bring a firearm onto school grounds. Beyond that, local districts would get to decide whether teachers needed additional training, whether to institute safe storage requiremen­ts and whether to tell parents about any of it.

Republican­s say local school boards are the best people to make school safety decisions. But Democrats argue that the lack of training and transparen­cy will make Ohio kids less safe.

How we got to allowing armed teachers in the classroom

Ohio, like at least a dozen other states, allows school districts to decide whether to let staff carry guns on school grounds.

And that’s exactly what Madison Local Schools in southweste­rn Ohio decided to do after a 14-year-old student shot two classmates in the cafeteria in 2016. Neither of the kids died, but the incident left the district shaken.

Parents in the district, however, sued in 2018 saying the 24 hours of required training for staff was nowhere close to enough. A district court ruled in favor of the parents, and the Ohio Supreme Court heard oral arguments in January.

The issue is whether school districts really can set their own firearm training requiremen­ts, or whether another state law, requiring peace officer training (about 728 hours) for anyone carrying a firearm into a school as part of their duties, applies to teachers.

HB 99 would make this question moot.

“In my bill, we simply give local control to the school boards and local governing bodies to decide what amount of training is necessary,” Rep. Thomas Hall, R-Middletown, said.

Hall, whose father was the school resource officer on duty the day of the Madison shooting, estimated 212 Ohio schools already have armed staff in their buildings.

Some publicize that fact, he said, but other districts don’t.

Should parents be notified if school employees bring guns to work?

That’s one of the biggest sticking points for opponents of HB 99: School districts aren’t required by law to tell parents when they arm teachers.

This isn’t about getting the names of specific staff who are going to carry guns, Ohio Education Associatio­n President Scott DiMauro said. “It’s knowing that there is personnel in your child’s school who are carrying weapons and what level of training they have.”

For example, Highland

Elementary School in South Bloomfield Township authorized its staff to carry guns. Parents didn’t know until a first-grade student removed his grandmothe­r’s gun from an unlocked case and pointed it at another student’s head.

“We cannot wait for a gun to go off to discover that our school district has armed the wrong person, or failed to give them proper training,” said Ben Adams, a firefighte­r and parent of five kids who attend Madison Local Schools.

Rep. Dave Leland, D-Columbus, thought it bordered on absurd that House Republican­s would push legislatio­n requiring parental notificati­on for sex education (HB 240) at the same time they’re arguing against telling parents about guns in schools.

“I have amendments prepared that would address some of these issues,” Leland said. “I’m hopeful we can reach some sort of agreement on something that’s workable.”

Hall said he’s open to including some form of parental notificati­on though he’s heard from districts that keeping armed teachers a secret is part of their security plan. The one, non-negotiable for him is that training requiremen­ts are best left to the local districts.

“We did not put a ceiling in the bill on training,” Hall said. “They could go beyond the (Ohio Peace Officer Training Academy) requiremen­ts.”

And he thinks most districts would require more than a concealed carry license.

“Schools should have that choice to decide on their own how to best prepare for the safety and security of their staff,” said Joseph Eaton from the Buckeye Firearms Associatio­n.

Eaton’s group sells training courses for school personnel called FASTER. And that’s what Madison Local Schools chose to use for their staff.

Adams, the Madison Local parent, thinks those courses are “dangerousl­y inadequate,” but what frustrated him even was that he had to sue the district to find out.

“At one point, I spoke to one of Madison’s school board members and he told me that the board should never have told parents about the program in the first place,” he said.

Why not use school resource officers instead of arming teachers?

Another idea being floated by Leland and the Ohio Fraternal Order of Police is to give schools the money to hire trained resource officers.

Mike Weinman, who spoke on behalf of the FOP, said anybody carrying a firearm in a school needs ongoing, intensive training to respond appropriat­ely during a school shooting.

“Officers are taught to suppress the psychologi­cal changes that occur during high-stress, traumatic events,” Weinman said. “Unfortunat­ely, shooting accuracy still falls off. Teachers and school staff will not receive this training level during an eight-hour concealed carry class or a weekend-long training class.”

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