Ohio Supreme Court hears arguments in Madison school case
On Tuesday, January 12, the Ohio Supreme Court heard arguments in a lawsuit brought by Bloomberg-funded Everytown for Gun Safety, which seeks 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.
After agreeing to hear the case in August, the Court also issued a stay on the appeals court ruling, meaning that Madison Local District was allowed to put its safety plan into action when classes began in September.
From the Columbus Dispatch:
Two portions of state law are central in the case. One exempts designated school employees from potential criminal charges for carrying concealed firearms on school premises, provided districts have adopted policies that allow it. A separate provision requires peace officer training for those carrying firearms in schools in the scope of their duties.
Attorney Matthew Blickensderfer, representing the school district, said the phrasing in the latter section of state law focuses on officers and other dedicated security personnel, though Chief Justice Maureen O’Connor questioned whether that would include teachers in some districts.
“In many, many of the schools in Ohio, (an) algebra teacher that is armed is the security onsite," she said. "... Then how is that algebra teacher not described in that clause of the statute?"
And Justice Sharon Kennedy offered, “You’re still a teacher, you’re not a police officer, you’re not a security guard. You are just a concealed permit holder that’s allowed to bring your gun into the building.”
Deputy Solicitor General Kyser Blakely, participating in oral arguments on behalf of Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost in support of the school district, said legislators worded the law to leave training requirement decisions to school districts, not to mandate officer training for teachers and other staff authorized to carry firearms.
Blakely added that peace officer training includes sessions on vehicle crashes, domestic violence, human trafficking and other issues beyond firearm safety.
“It would be really surprising if the General Assembly had wanted school districts to allow teachers to carry firearms but only if they became police officers," Blakley said.
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.
Even as the case was proceeding, Buckeye Firearms Association sought a legislative solution by advocating for passage of SB 317 in the 133rd General Assembly. The bill was passed by the Senate on a 21-11 vote, but died in the House Primary and Secondary Education Committee.
Because of inaction there, the language from SB 317 was added to House Bill 425, which passed the Senate Government Oversight committee, but never received a Senate floor vote, so it died again in the Senate
The Madison language was then amended into House Bill 421, which passed the Senate. The House did not return to concur, so it died yet again in the House after passing the Senate.
It could take several months for the Ohio Supreme Court makes a decision in the case.
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.