Ohio House passes bill to address school safety

On Wednesday, January 22, the Ohio House passed House Bill 8, a bill intended to, among other things, clarify the right of local boards of education to enact safety plans which include the authorization of concealed handgun license-holders, and to specify that those plans may be considered part of the school safety plan and thus not be part of the public record.

From coverage by WBNS (CBS Columbus):

House Bill 8, which passed overwhelmingly out of the House Wednesday, says a school board could pick a school employee to carry a concealed weapon. It would also keep the name of the person carrying the weapon a secret.

"As a parent, I would certainly want to know if my kid's teacher had a gun or not," said Worthington teacher and Vice President of the Ohio Education Association, Scott DiMauro.

DiMauro is against the bill, but the head of the Buckeye Firearms Foundation says hidden guns, in the right hands, are important for school safety.

"There's all sorts of emergency response plans that we, as parents, aren't really privileged to. And that's fine. That's good. What you want to know is that the district has done their due diligence and has adequate safety security plans in place," said Jim Irvine.

Some teachers tell 10TV the state should provide more resources to have more armed police officers in schools, but those for the bill say there's no money to fund it.

Some Democrats joined Republicans to support the bill, which passed 63-29. (View HB 8 as passed by the House here.)

Ohio law currently allows local boards of education to authorize employees or others with concealed handgun licensees to be in the school, and a summary from the Legislative Service Commission the bill is intended to maintain, even enhance, local control:

The bill also establishes an exception to the prohibition against any public or private "educational institution" (or the superintendent of the state highway patrol) employing a person to carry a weapon while on duty if that person has not received a certificate in basic peace officer training or has not completed 20 years of active duty as a peace officer. The bill's exception applies to any person authorized to carry a concealed handgun under a school safety plan.

The exception mentioned above would be to a section of that law some, including an Ohio School Board Association attorney, suggested prohibited schools from authorizing employees to carry. Attorney General DeWine has already issued a letter debunking this claim, but if HB 8 is being written to clarify this for schools, it would be a welcome thing.

Also welcome would be provisions that specifically state that a board of election may "incorporate into its school safety plan the designation of employees who may carry concealed handguns in a school safety zone and to do so while in executive session." Schools have already been doing this, but having that right expressed would be helpful.

Also helpful would be a provision which "prohibits the disclosure of the names of designated employees authorized to possess or use a handgun in a school safety zone." While school safety plans are not public record, some school's decision to allow certain persons to carry in the school were not done in a school safety plan, and have since been publicized by the media.

Yet another helpful provision would be one which "grants qualified civil immunity to a school district, community school, STEM school, or chartered nonpublic school board or governing authority and its designated employees for injury, death, or loss arising from a designated employee's authorized possession or use of the handgun in a school safety zone."

According to a recent Buckeye Firearms Association survey, there are at least 20 different school districts in Ohio that have authorized individuals such as teachers, administrators and parents to carry firearms in schools. If House Bill 8 will help more boards of education feel comfortable making this important decision, so much the better.

Chad D. Baus is the Buckeye Firearms Association Secretary, and BFA PAC Vice Chairman.

Additional Information: Dayton Daily News - More than 1,600 school personnel apply for free firearms training

More than 1,600 Ohio school personnel have applied for free training from the Buckeye Firearms Foundation since the program was launched just over a year ago, according to data from the foundation.

The foundation has trained 167 teachers, administrators and other school staff and projects it will have trained up to 300 by the time classes are completed in 2014 in the Armed Teacher Training program.

The Buckeye Firearms Foundation, a nonprofit firearms educational organization, launched Armed Teacher Training in December 2012, just after a shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., claimed 28 lives, including 20 children on Dec. 14, 2012.

"We want to give them the problem solving skills to identify these situations to keep themselves and the children safe," said Joe Eaton, Southwest Ohio Region Leader for the Buckeye Firearms Foundation. "And then we want to give them the life-saving skills also that they can immediately implement, should they ever be not only in an active killer situation but any type of emergency whether it's tornadoes, a car crash, a bus accident, injuries in the bleachers, anything along those lines."

Kevin Quinn, president of the National Association of School Resource Officers opposes arming teachers.

"We obviously feel that having a properly trained, properly selected school resource officer should be the only person on the campus armed with a weapon," Quinn said. He said he sees potential problems with arming teachers, administrators and other staff. Police could be hindered in a shooting situation because they have to spend time determining who is trying to protect students and who is trying to do harm, Quinn said.

Of Ohio school personnel who have sought training, 73 percent were teachers, 14 percent were administrators, 2 percent were other office staff, 2 percent were custodial and 1 percent were maintenance staff, the foundation data shows.

Armed Teacher Training is a 3½-day course that includes a review of previous school shootings, an overview of what generally happens in a mass shooting, firearm safety and first aid application in mass trauma situations, Eaton said.

The training also includes simulated attacks.

"The teachers can start seeing what they've practiced and learned over the past few days is effective in immediately diffusing situations," Eaton said.

Lisa Murphy a third-grade teacher in Warren County completed Armed Teacher Training last summer.

"It gave me a whole new perspective on what I needed to do to protect my children," said Murphy, who is also a firearms instructor.

Murphy said she developed a growing need a few years ago to learn more about using firearms to protect family and friends. The Armed Teacher Training is an extension of that, she said.

Teachers and administrators who carry guns should be "competent, educated and willing to create a safe environment for our children," Murphy said.

"I've heard the comment: 'Teachers have enough on their plates. They don't need one more thing to worry about.' I do understand that and I totally agree. Yes we do," Murphy said. "But the reason that we're teachers is because we care about the children and the children are first and foremost in our minds. So I will feel a lot better having my tools to protect my children than to have to sit back and go, I could have.''

Elizabeth Terry, who teaches at a Dayton area private high school, also completed the firearms training program last year summer. She said her school is considering allowing teachers to carry concealed firearms. Terry said she has a long history with firearms and views the training as another tool to prepare her to protect her students if necessary.

"You watch what happens in these other schools such as Newtown, and there's not a teacher out there, I guarantee you, who wouldn't stand in front of a bullet," Terry said. "All of them would do it because we feel very responsible for all of our students. But what if we could do more?"

Armed Teacher Training by the numbers
1,600: Number of Ohio school personnel who have applied for training
167: Number of teachers, administrators and other staff who have completed training
$1,000: The per pupil training cost
15: Percentage of applicants with permission to carry a weapon at school or who expect to gain permission after completing the course.
42: Percentage of applicants who are female
58: Percentage of applicants who are male

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