Ohio Senate Approves Armed School Staff Legislation

There are already dozens of school districts across the state of Ohio that have armed school staff in place, but a lawsuit filed with the help of Everytown for Gun Safety is putting the legality of thousands of vetted and trained school staff in jeopardy. Parents in the Madison school district argue that under Ohio law, teachers and staff need to have the exact same training as police officers before they can legally carry, and the issue is currently before the state Supreme Court.

Lawmakers in the Buckeye State aren’t waiting for the court to decide if the current statutes allow for districts to determine their own training policies for armed school staff. On Wednesday, the state Senate approved legislation that specifically authorizes school staffers to carry without going through hundreds of hours of peace officer training.

State Sen. Bill Coley, a Butler County Republican sponsoring the bill, said the “court went off the reservation” with its ruling. The legislation, he said, would ensure that “school districts in my area of the state can have the same rights that all of your school districts in your areas of the state have.”

Gun-rights groups, including the National Rifle Association, have expressed support for SB 317, arguing local education officials should be allowed to determine the best policies for ensuring their schools are safe. The Madison Local School District put its policy in place after a 14-year-old student opened fire at Madison Junior-Senior High School in 2016, injuring four.

Several Democratic senators spoke against the legislation prior to the bill’s passage in the GOP-dominated Senate. They argued that the bill is unwanted by most Ohioans and makes schools less safe.

“No child in Ohio should have to worry about if there is a gun at school, or if the person with the gun has had proper training,” said state Sen. Hearcel Craig, a Columbus Democrat.

First off, no teacher or staff member in Ohio is carrying without first volunteering, being vetted, and then undergoing several days of training, typically through the Ohio FASTER program, which focuses specifically on stopping armed threats at school. Educators not only learn how to respond to an attack with their lawfully-carried firearm, but they learn de-escalation techniques, first aid, and other strategies to deal with an active assailant and the aftermath.

Should teachers have to go through the peace officer training on defensive driving, or crime scene analysis, or laws governing arrests or use of force if they’re not actually peace officers? That would be absurd, but that’s the standard that anti-gun activists and politicians want to put in place.

FASTER is designed specifically for educators, and provides them with the tools they would need to respond in the case of the unthinkable. It’s already put several thousand school staffers through the training program, and there’ve been no issues whatsoever with the armed staffers in the dozens of districts that have adopted the security measures.

While I’d love to see Ohio’s high court smack down the Everytown-funded lawsuit, if legislators moot the issue by approving SB317 that would be an acceptable outcome as well. As long as students aren’t left undefended and the teachers and staff who are willing to serve as a first line of defense don’t have to do so disarmed, I’ll consider that a win.