Sheriff's firearm training for teachers starts Monday

Sheriff's firearm training for teachers starts Monday
Butler County Sheriff Richard Jones (Butler County Sheriff's Office Facebook page)

HAMILTON, OH (FOX19) - More than 100 southwestern Ohio teachers will begin firearm training Monday morning in the wake of the deadly Florida mass shooting.

Saturday classes also are booked for the next two weeks, Butler County Sheriff Richard Jones said.

The outspoken sheriff began offering the classes for free to all county school employees a week ago and promoting arming teachers a few days before President Donald Trump announced he wanted "highly trained" educators to carry guns and those who do should receive a monetary bonus.

Demand was so high for Butler County's concealed carry training class, the sheriff had to cut off sign-ups at 300. Other school personnel such as secretaries and custodians also are eligible.

Jones has been invited on several national talk shows to discuss his controversial decision. He most recently appeared Sunday for a live interview on "Fox & Friends," his second one on the show in less than a week (he was on Tuesday).

"We have to do something here because we can't wait for our government to do anything. All they do is fight. They get nothing done," he said during the segment.

"We got four minutes, you guys, that's all we have before the shooting stops. The police get there in six to eight minutes. We can't stop the school shootings. We can't stop guns from being manufactured but we gotta do something.  We gotta make the schools more of a harder target and we gotta make them safe.

"Now, there's people that don't want guns in the schools and that's OK. The guns are there.  We are just seeing the shootings. There's guns all over the United States that are coming into schools and they take them away all the time."

In most schools in Ohio and across the country, however, only law enforcement officials are permitted to carry weapons inside. An Ohio state law change last year allows CCW holders to store firearms in their cars in school zones.

In Kentucky, lawmaker has proposed a bill that would put guns in classrooms. Sen. Steve West filed Senate Bill 103 the same day of the deadly Marshall County High School shooting in western Kentucky last month. A 15-year-old student is accused of shooting and killing two classmates and wounding more than a dozen others.

If passed into law, the measure will allow public school boards and private schools to add designated persons to carry firearms, possibly a teacher or staff member to be school marshals. That's one marshal per 400 students, and weapons would be stored in a lockbox.

The bill also allows for appointed school marshals to be reimbursed for the purchase, ammunition and associated costs of carrying a gun.

So far, none of the school districts in Butler County have indicated they have any plans to allow staff members to carry weapons into classrooms.

That includes Lakota, the county's largest school district with a student enrollment of 16,585, according to the district's website. Lakota also is considered the second-largest school district in the Tri-State, second to Cincinnati Public Schools.

Lakota's school board holds its next meeting Monday from 6:30 p.m. to 8 p.m. at the board office in Liberty Township.

Jones has been encouraging the public to speak out to school boards to permit employees to take weapons into buildings.

"It's legal in Ohio if the school boards have the guts to make it a reality. There's 240 schools in the United States that have this and there's a few in Ohio that have it," he said Sunday on "Fox & Friends."

"But we've gotta have these people trained. Listen, everybody that's in the school it should be mandatory that you go through a training course. You need to be able to know what a gun sounds like, what they look like. You need to be able to tell where the fire's coming from. It is reality. We have four minutes and the only alternative you have at that point is to beg for your life or hide.

"Now, those who don't want these procedures done in the schools, maybe we could get a school where they don't have protection if they want. It's like when you go to the airport. People complain about going through the line with the metal detectors. I don't . I want to get on the plane where nobody has a weapon except the police and if they want to fly on a plane without security, let them fly on a special plane."

In 2013, the sheriff urged voters in West Chester and Liberty townships to pass a 5.5 continuing combination school levy for Lakota that provides $13.8 million annually to the school district and tripled the number of school resource officers.

Lakota's superintendent, Matthew Miller, referred to the increase in SROs in a letter to parents about school safety last week.

But he did not indicate if the school board would permit educators who complete the sheriff's CCW training to bring guns into classrooms.

Here is the superintendent's letter in its entirety:

The tragedy that occurred last week at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, FL has brought forth many concerns about the safety of our children. As a nation, we watched the news unfold, heartbroken for the 17 lives lost to a senseless act of violence. As a community, as a state, and as a nation, we look for answers on how to make sure that such a deplorable act does not happen again.

There is much heated debate about what the right answer is. I wish I knew. I wish it was easy. Unfortunately, it is not. I believe it is a complex issue with many different layers that must be considered. But as the superintendent of Lakota Local Schools, I can confidently assure you that the safety and security of our students and staff is our number one priority.

Some aspects of our district safety plan are visible to the public, while others are not. In response to the last levy passage, we upgraded the safe and secure entrances at all of our buildings and have procedures in place with regard to the way visitors are welcomed into our schools. We also increased the number of SROs in our district from three to 10. The SROs are uniformed members of the Butler County Sheriff's Office and West Chester Police Department. They are visible in our schools, not only to visitors, but also to our staff and students. Their presence allows them to build relationships with our students and become another trusted adult to confide in. 

Training for our students and staff takes place all year long. This includes drills in case of natural disasters like fires or tornadoes, as well as lockdown, intruder and other safety measures. Lakota uses ALICE (Alert, Lockdown, Inform, Counter, Evacuate) training to teach our students and staff what to do in the event of an intruder. 

The health and well-being of our students is also part of safety and security in our schools. We are working to meet the social and emotional needs of our students and we continue to expand our mental health services. Our partnership with Mindpeace (a non-profit advocate for access to high quality mental healthcare) is in place at both of our high schools, and will be in all of our junior schools by next year. We have also partnered with "Grant Us Hope," which includes bringing Hope Squads to our high schools. These peer-to-peer suicide prevention groups encourage our students to "see something, say something" when they are concerned about one of their fellow students.

The "see something, say something" message is one that we strongly encourage at all of our schools. This concept is put to the test regularly when there are concerns about questionable social media posts, for example. The students who had the courage to show the posts to their parents, teachers or school administrators are to be commended. It's a practice that is encouraged through our "Text-A-Tip" program in partnership with local law enforcement, too. 

While we work to keep our schools safe, we also need support from home. I encourage you to stay engaged in your child's life. Be intentional about your presence. Have conversations with them, including the hard ones. Know who their friends are. Check their social media accounts. Follow their friends' accounts. In most of these horrific events, there have been warning signs. If you see something that bothers you, say something and encourage your child to do the same. 

In the aftermath of last week's tragedy, our students are speaking up and asking to be heard, asking to be able to do something to show their support of the Stoneman Douglas community. I find this admirable and our administrators are working with student leaders to find a way to support the expression of student voice in a safe and effective way. Likewise, I encourage you to support your children by listening to them as they cope during these difficult times and encourage them to work with their school principal to share their voice and honor the students of Stoneman Douglas.

If you have any questions or concerns, please feel free to contact me.


Matthew J. Miller

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