Ohio Supreme Court agrees to hear appeal in case to continue to allow armed school staff

The Gongwer News Service is reporting that the Ohio Supreme Court has agreed to review whether a southwest Ohio school district's plan to allow certain employees to carry concealed weapons complies with state law.

Current state law allows school boards to make decisions about the security in their schools. However, a lawsuit involving Bloomberg-funded Everytown for Gun Safety sought to prevent Madison Local School District from arming staff. The district initially received a favorable ruling, but an appeals court overturned it. The result is that employees carrying firearms in schools would be required to complete more than 700 hours of peace officer training, most of which is irrelevant to stopping active killers.

From the article:

Butler County's Madison Local School District filed the appeal in May after a divided Twelfth District Court of Appeals ruled a section of Ohio Revised Code bars schools from employing special police officers, security guards or other armed personnel unless they have completed basic peace officer training or 20 years of active duty.

The district argues in its memorandum in support of jurisdiction that a separate law governing school safety zones gives school boards the authority to determine who is allowed to carry weapons in such zones.

"This statute says nothing about what training requirements, certifications, or other prerequisites a local board of education may require in exercising this delegated authority," the memorandum states. "The General Assembly chose instead to leave these decisions to the judgment of local districts, which are best situated to determine – under the particular circumstances faced by their respective districts – whether to arm staff and how to do so safely, under the particular circumstances of their respective districts."

Later in the article, Gongwer notes that Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost also believes the lower court's ruling should be overturned, saying if the Appeal's Court ruling stands it would make it more difficult for districts to prevent school shootings and interfere with police officer training.

The AG contends that if the ruling stands: "(1) the Attorney General will have to dilute what basic peace officer training consists of; or (2) peace officer academies will subject school staff to hundreds of hours of training on topics they have no use for and are likely uninterested in."

"While the latter option could retain existing curriculums, it would lead to untold frustration within the Academy. Either way, Ohio basic peace officer training would suffer. Ohio law does not require these anomalous results, but the Twelfth District's decision does," the brief states.

AG Yost also argues that the law requiring peace officer training for armed personnel employed by schools only applies to workers serving in roles "comparable to that of a police officer or security guard."

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.

Chad D. Baus served as Buckeye Firearms Association Secretary from 2013-2019. He is co-founder of BFA-PAC, and served as its Vice Chairman for 15 years. He is the editor of BuckeyeFirearms.org, which received the Outdoor Writers of Ohio 2013 Supporting Member Award for Best Website, and is also an NRA-certified firearms instructor.

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.

Additional Information:

BFA Testifies in Favor of SB 317 to Exempt School Employees from Peace Officer Training

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