OH Supreme Court Hears Challenge To Armed School Staff

There are dozens of school districts across the state of Ohio that have adopted policies allowing for volunteer, vetted, and trained school staff to carry firearms as a first line of defense against an active assailant on campus, but a lawsuit supported by Everytown for Gun Safety has put a halt to the program in one school district.

Several parents sued the Madison Local schools over its policy, arguing that under Ohio law any school personnel carrying on campus must undergo the exact same training required to become a peace officer in the state. An appellate court agreed with the parents, but now the case has reached the Ohio State Supreme Court, and judges will hear oral arguments from both sides on Tuesday.

Republican Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost is among supporters of the school district, and Deputy Solicitor General Kyser S. Blakely is scheduled to participate in oral arguments Tuesday on his behalf. In a brief filed in the case, Yost argued that peace officer training outlined in state law does not apply to non-security employees.

Siding with the appeals court ruling would “strip school districts of the freedom to decide for themselves whether arming school employees is an effective means to deter and mitigate mass shootings,” according to the filing.

The cities of Columbus and Cincinnati were among those supporting the parents who filed the original lawsuit, arguing that state law sets the minimum level for training requirements.

While “local school boards are often better positioned to make local decisions, these decisions must be made within the confines of controlling state legislation setting minimum standards,” the cities wrote in a brief in support of the plaintiffs. “… People who carry a firearm in order to be able to respond to an in-school security threat must have a consistent foundation of education and experience to de-escalate any threat.”

The fact that the state’s Attorney General has sided with the school district will hopefully have a positive impact on the case. It’s pretty clear that the state legislature believes that local school districts should be able to make their own policies as well, since the body has previously approved funding for the FASTER Ohio training program that teaches school staff how to respond to an active assailant event.

Unfortunately, a bill that would have specifically authorized school districts to set up an armed school staff program didn’t make it to Gov. Mike DeWine’s desk last year. The measure passed out of the state Senate, but didn’t receive a full vote in the state House before the lame duck legislative session expired. It’s likely that the bill will return if the state Supreme Court rules against the Madison school district, but hopefully the court will put the issue to rest by siding with Madison and the other districts across Ohio that have chosen to protect students and staff with armed guardians on campus.