HAMILTON, OH (FOX19) - A southwest Ohio sheriff announced Thursday he is offering free firearm training classes for teachers again, one day after a loaded gun was found in a school.
“If guns are in schools, they need to understand what they look like, sound like and what they can do,” said Butler County Sheriff Richard Jones.
A class will be held for 50 teachers Saturday, Jan. 5. Participants need to bring their own gun and ammunition.
“This course is set up so that you learn all the basic fundamentals, legal aspects, safe storage, handling and the psychological aspects of using force,” a memo states. “It covers everything you need to know if you’ve never touched a gun before.”
A 16-year-old student was found in possession of a loaded gun during a search Wednesday at the Hamilton Freshman School, district officials said.
A letter sent home with students said the teen was searched when he was caught using a vape on school grounds. The gun was reported stolen in the city.
The student is facing charges, but the sheriff said the episode underscores that more must be done to protect schools, students and staff.
The outspoken Republican sheriff drew national attention earlier this year when he announced his agency would hold free concealed handgun training classes for school staff after the school shootings in Florida and Texas.
The response was overwhelming. He had to cap it off at 300 when 250 signed up in less than 24 hours.
To date, 150 school personnel have been trained, he has said: “It proves that teachers want to.”
In addition to holding CCW classes, the sheriff said he is sending letters about school safety Thursday to President Donald Trump, Ohio Gov.-elect Mike Dewine and “to all other school boards putting them on notice.”
Jones has been criticizing Hamilton school leaders all year about upgrading safety and even erecting a billboard over the summer to call them out when he felt they didn’t do enough.
“How many times,” he said Thursday, “did that gun go into that school? How many each day go into front door? No security.”
Now, he is demanding action and metal detector in schools everyday.
School district officials said Wednesday they already have plans in place to increase the number of school resource officers in the district by adding two on Jan. 7 when students return from winter break.
That will bring the number of SROs to seven to protect the district’s 13 schools, they said.
They also plan to expend a random use of metal detecting wands as students enter schools in the morning.
“We have been using these wands at football games and some other school events, but we feel that with the addition of these two officers and this most recent situation, the time has come for our SRO’s to increase their random use from time to time with the students as they enter the buildings to serve as a greater deterrent for such actions,” district officials said in a statement Wednesday.
“The use of the metal detecting wands will primarily be used at the secondary buildings but it could be used at an elementary if a situation warranted it.”
The school board looked into arming trained school staff members earlier this year, but abandoned it when parents and others in the community raised concerns.
The Hamilton district also was part of a school security levy that was on the ballot in November 2018, but it failed.
When the district retreated from their pledge to the sheriff to allow staff to carry guns on campus, he told voters to reject the levy and called it “a money grab."
Ohio law permits school boards to decide whether to allow teachers and other staff to go armed into school buildings, but Ohio’s Legislature has mandated that they be well-trained.
School employees who carry on duty are required to have first completed a basic peace officer training program or have 20 years experience serving as a peace officer.
A handful of local school districts have passed rules allowing the arming of school staff such as Madison schools in Butler County, Blanchestser schools in Clinton County and Williamsburg ones in Clermont County.
School districts both locally and nationally struggle to find ways to protect students in the event of a shooting on campus.
The issue came to the forefront again earlier this year after 17 students died in a shooting at Marjorie Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla.
Madison Local Schools decision to arm teachers came two years after an eighth-grader opened fire in the cafeteria in one of its schools, wounding three classmates.
Still, a group of parent sued the district in September to try to halt the move.