Fight to continue arming school staffers moves to Ohio Supreme Court

Butler County's Journal-News is reporting that Madison Schools have appealed a recent 12th District Court of Appeals ruling they must provide police-level training to armed staffers to the Ohio Supreme Court.

From the article:

The district filed the appeal to the high court Thursday and a number of other school districts and the Ohio Attorney General’s Office have filed briefs in support. They said “it would be difficult to argue that this case does not present issues of public or great general interest.”

“This is more than a picayune squabble about how much training should be required when a school district exercises its right under the authorizing statute,” attorneys for the district wrote. “As a practical matter, this decision eliminates the ability of a local board of education to decide that the best way to protect students and staff from a hostile actor is by allowing some staff to carry concealed weapons on school grounds.”

In 2018, Madison Local School District in Middletown, Ohio, joined school districts across the state by implementing a comprehensive safety program that included an armed response team inside schools. Team members had gone through Buckeye Firearms Foundation's FASTER Saves Lives program, consisting of a highly focused 26-hour course dealing exclusively with armed response, crisis management, and emergency medical aid. This is more active killer training than most Ohio officers have when graduating from the police academy.

However, in early 2019, we reported on a lawsuit (Gabbard v. Madison Local School District) involving Bloomberg-funded Everytown for Gun Safety coming to Ohio to prevent the school district from arming staff. Both our Foundation and the FASTER program were mentioned in the suit.

While the Everytown attorneys maintained they were interested only in the safety of children, we believed then, and continue to believe, that the real goal is to shut down the FASTER program and set a legal precedent that would prevent teachers, or anyone else, from carrying firearms in schools unless they are police officers. Given that no school employee could ever be expected to complete that much training, and given the expense of hiring security or police officers, a loss in this case could prevent nearly anyone from being armed in Ohio schools.

Butler County Judge Charles Pater ruled against the Bloomberg lawyers disputing their claim that Ohio law mandates police levels of training:

“To read it in context it would easily be rational to say what this is talking about is a position — and it’s not designated as a security position, it’s not designated as a law enforcement position — but some position which encompasses carrying a firearm,” he said.

“The position of custodian, of secretary, the position of teacher, the position of a school administrator … those positions as positions don’t encompass, don’t require carrying firearms."

This is the same interpretation of the law put forth by then Attorney General Mike DeWine in 2013:

I do not believe that R.C. 109.78(D) applies to non-security personnel. Put simply, it is unlikely that the General Assembly intended this language to reach every school employee. Had they intended to do so, they would have simply said that no school may employ "any person who goes armed." Instead, the General Assembly's use of "special police officer, security guard, or other position" suggests that "other positions" applies to security personnel. Thus, a board of education or governing body of a school may give non-security personnel written authorization to carry a weapon onto the premises. R.C. 2923.122(D)(1)(a).

The Bloomberg-backed attorneys appealed the ruling, and Judge Robert Ringland of the 12th District Court of Appeals said that the district cannot circumvent state law. According to the Journal-News, he wrote:

“The express language of the statute does not suggest an intention to allow teachers or staff to carry a firearm while on duty with less training than that indicated in the statute,” Judge Robert Ringland wrote for the court. “Rather, the plain language of the statute reveals that a board of education may only employ such persons if they have received significant training or have more than 20 years of experience.”

"It is difficult to understand how the 12th Appellate District Court of Appeals could arrive at this conclusion," said Joe Eaton, FASTER Saves Lives Director. "They seem to believe that the Ohio legislature intended for school staff to be trained in 'vehicle pursuit', 'radio procedures', 'prostitution', 'commercial vehicle offenses' and other non-related items before they are permitted to exercise the same right to self defense in their school that they do every other hour of the day outside of the school. ORC 2923.122 clearly does not require this for other persons the school board authorizes."

There is clearly a serious disconnect here. The purpose of the FASTER program, and the point of staff carrying firearms in school, is not to replace police and EMT, but to allow teachers, administrators, and other personnel on-site to stop school violence rapidly and render medical aid immediately. It is a well-established fact that faster response to school killings and other violence results in fewer lives lost.

Dean Rieck is Executive Director of Buckeye Firearms Association, a former competitive shooter, NRA Patron Member, #1 NRA Recruiter for 2013, business owner and partner with Second Call Defense.

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