Ohio sheriff advocates for armed school staff

Ohio sheriff advocates for armed school staff
(Richard Alan Hannon/The Advocate via AP)

An Ohio school district is moving towards a security plan that would allow for certain school staff members to carry a concealed firearm while on the job, and the idea has the backing of the local sheriff, who says that the policy “gives you your best chance at a response if something happens.”

The Claymont school district actually had an armed staff policy in place for some time, but the teachers and staff members were disarmed by the Ohio Supreme Court last year thanks to a lawsuit aided by the gun control group Everytown for Gun Safety. The state Supreme Court ruled that, despite the fact lawmakers had funded armed teacher training, state law required all those carrying a firearm on the job at school to first undergo more than 700 hours of law enforcement training. Ohio lawmakers responded to the decision by changing state law and making it explicitly clear that school districts have the power to vet and train staffers who volunteer to serve as a first line of defense in case of a targeted attack on campus, and now districts like Claymont are free to carry on with their concealed carry policies; at least if school board members don’t object.

Tuscarawas County Sheriff Orvis Campbell and the Claymont Board of Education on Tuesday discussed an administration proposal to allow school staff to resume carrying guns on school property.

The board deferred action on the measure after member Cyndy Host asked questions and said she needs more information.

“I personally have to understand it and know the risks that are involved,” she said. “I have questions as it relates to risk for the district, risks for a staff member if they do end up in that situation.

“If our teacher misses and a bystander gets hit, what’s that liability on them?” Host added. “Are they going to lose their license? Could they personally be sued?”

Campbell said that even law enforcement officers could accidentally shoot a bystander.

“Risk mitigation … that’s huge with me because I don’t ever want the district to be in a position of putting us at risk, or students at risk, or teachers. It’s anybody, right? It’s a teacher. It’s an aide. It’s a bus driver. It’s the custodian,” Host said.

Superintendent Brian Rentsch and board member Michelle Wolf said any staffer accidentally discharging a gun would go on paid leave, undergo an investigation, and be prohibited from carrying a weapon at school in the future.

Procedures were developed in consultation with trainers, lawyers and the district’s liability insurance company, Rentsch said.

It’s fine to ask these types of questions, but it sounds like the district has done its research to develop a workable policy designed to protect students and staff from a murderous rampage. And honestly, if a staff member ever is confronted with the dangerous reality of an active shooter on campus, the risk of an accidental shooting would be outweighed by the fact that an individual would be intentionally trying to murder kids and staff members. The number one goal is to stop that attack as soon as possible, and waiting for who knows how long for police to arrive and engage the attacker puts students at risk as well.

Hopefully the Claymont school board will quickly move to reinstate its armed school staff program, like several other school districts in the Buckeye State have already done. The safety of students and staff shouldn’t be diminished because of liability concerns, especially when there are hundreds of school districts across the country with the programs already in place without issue.