Court to Cincinnati-area school district: Stop arming staff without police-level training

Court to Cincinnati-area school district: Stop arming staff without police-level training
Armed teachers and other staff members at school district in the northern Cincinnati suburbs must have police levels of training, which is 728 hours, not the 27 hours in the school’s policy, an appeals court ruled this week. (Source: Ken Hanvey)

MADISON TWP., Ohio (FOX19) - Armed teachers and other staff members at school district in the northern Cincinnati suburbs must have police levels of training, which is 728 hours, not the 27 hours in the school’s policy, an appeals court ruled this week.

“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,” Ohio 12th District Court of Appeals Judge Robert Ringland wrote in the decision.

“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.”

The district sent FOX19 NOW the following statement:

“We are disappointed in the split decision issued by the Twelfth District Court of Appeals. We are pleased, however, that Judge Powell, the Governor (when he was Attorney General), and the current Attorney General agreed that the Madison Local Schools’ Board of Education policy was lawful. The Board has always done, and will continue to do, what is in the best interest of our community. Our primary concern has been and continues to be the safety of our students, and what works for our community may not work for others. While this policy has received a substantial amount of attention, it is just one of the many steps that the District has taken to ensure student safety. We are considering and exploring all of our options moving forward, including, if necessary, asking the Ohio Supreme Court to intervene.”

The decision applies to Madison Local Schools in Butler County.

“For good reason, Ohio requires that teachers undergo extensive training before carrying hidden, loaded handguns in classrooms,” said Rachel Bloomekatz, a Columbus-based attorney representing the parents, in a prepared news release.

“As the court recognized, the district’s program fails to meet the state’s clear requirements. We’re pleased by today’s ruling and believe it will improve the safety of students, teachers and staff.”

The plaintiffs are Erin Gabbard, Aimee Robson, Dallas Robson, Benjamin Tobey and Benjamin Adams, on behalf of themselves and their children.

They are represented by Gupta Wessler LLC of Columbus, Ohio and the gun control group Everytown for Gun Safety Support Fund.

Everytown for Gun Safety is a non-profit organization that advocates for gun control and against gun violence. It was founded in 2014 and is largely financed by former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who also founded the group.

Parents sued the district in 2018 to try to stop its new policy from taking effect.

It is one that was created in the wake of a 2016 school shooting.

A student opened fire on Feb. 29, 2016, shooting two classmates at Madison’s Junior/Senior High School.

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Butler County Common Pleas Court Judge Charles Pater ruled last year the hours of training required in the district’s policy is enough for school staff.

“There is no doubt that the parties in this action care deeply about protecting Madison school children while they are on school grounds. I applaud Madison Local for trying to take immediate steps to ensure the safety of their students,” another one of the appeals court judges, Robert A. Hendrickson, wrote in the decision.

“However, such immediate steps must comply with the law. (The law) as it is currently written, sets forth the parameters that school boards must follow when employing armed individuals in their schools. This court cannot ignore the requirements.... Should the legislature want to reduce the amount of training or experience employed teachers and staff need to have in order to carry a firearm in a school safety zone, it is in the legislature’s hands to do so.”

Other school districts in the Tri-State have passed similar rules allowing teachers to be armed, including Blanchester schools in Clinton County and Williamsburg ones in Clermont County.

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