An Ohio appellate court says a school district in the state cannot allow teachers and staff to carry firearms to protect students, unless the staff undergo the same 700 hours of training that the state requires for law enforcement officers.

The ruling, authored by Judge Robert Ringland, is a moot point at the moment with Ohio schools closed until at least May 1st, but could have a major impact on school safety in the district when students return.

In his opinion, Ringland says that state law requires than any armed security in schools be done by those that have received the same amount of training that police officers receive, even if the staff aren’t serving as law enforcement.

“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.”

The appellate court’s decision overturns a ruling by an Ohio district judge, who determined last year that because the armed school staff weren’t police officers, they weren’t required to have the same level of training as they would need in order to serve as a cop.

“Clearly teachers, administrators, administrative assistants and custodians, along with most, if not all, other school employees are not employed by educational institutions in such capacity, unlike someone such as a school resource officer who is,” he wrote in his decision, which was obtained by local newspaper Journal-News.

The lawsuit was filed by several parents in the Madison school district, but Michael Bloomberg’s Everytown Law served as co-counsel in the case, and the anti-gun litigation arm of Everytown for Gun Safety has been challenging policies allowing armed school staff in several other cases around the county as well.

The superintendent of the Madison school district says the school board will be weighing all of their options, including taking the case to the Ohio Supreme Court. While this suit only challenged the policy in Madison, there are dozens of school districts around the state that have adopted similar rules in recent years, particularly in rural areas. In Tuscarawas County, for example, at least five school districts allow armed school staff. The local sheriff points out that police officers in Ohio may have to undergo 700 hours of training, but only 60 hours of that involves firearms.

Tuscarawas County Sheriff Orvis Campbell said he believes that area educators who have been armed have the training and skills necessary to keep everyone safe.

Teachers there have gone through FASTER training, provided by the Buckeye Firearms Association. FASTER stands for Faculty/Administrator Safety Training & Emergency Response.

Police officers who go to a police academy receive 60 hours of training on firearms, and two days of that is in the classroom, Campbell said. By comparison, area teachers have been given three separate weeks of training.

“I put guys through one of them, and it’s very good,” he said.

“All of them are qualifying at at least the same level as every peace officer (in Ohio), and all of them have kept up so far,” Campbell said.

I’m not sure why armed school staff would need to undergo hundreds of hours of training on defensive driving, arrests, crime scene investigation, and more, given the fact that they will never actually need to put any of that into use. Armed teachers aren’t police. They’re a first line of defense in case of an active shooter on school grounds, and it’s ridiculous that the 12th Appellate Court in Ohio has taken the position that armed teachers must, in effect, be police officers too.

Hopefully this will be appealed to the state Supreme Court and we’ll see a better decision. In the meantime, it might be a good idea for lawmakers to revisit the applicable statute and make it clear that districts can decide for themselves how best to protect their students, including armed school staff if necessary.