Ohio court overturns school gun policy, says gun teachers need police-level training


The Ohio Supreme Court ruled Wednesday that school employees cannot carry firearms without extensive training or decades of experience.

In a 4 to 3 decision, the state’s highest court overturned a 2018 Madison Local School District policy allowing employees to carry guns on campus as long as they met certain requirements, such as having a concealed carry permit and training in active shooter intervention. , as well as pass a background check and mental health exam.

The policy was put in place after a 2016 shooting in the high school cafeteria injured four students. But five parents sued the district over the plan to arm teachers, arguing it violated Ohio law because it failed to ensure that employees had the required training.

The court ruled in favor of the parents, saying on Wednesday that state law “prohibits a school from employing an armed person while on duty unless the employee has satisfactorily completed a basic training program approved for peace officers or has 20 years of experience. as a peace officer. “

Chief Justice Maureen O’Connor, a Conservative judge, was joined by three Democratic judges in Wednesday’s ruling. The other three Republican judges opposed the court’s decision.

The Ohio Supreme Court ruled Wednesday that school employees cannot carry firearms without extensive training or decades of experience. In this photo, gun owners and Second Amendment advocates gather at the Ohio State House to protest gun control legislation September 14, 2019 in Columbus, Ohio.
Matthew Hatcher / Getty Images

Erin Gabbard, one of the parents challenging the policy, called the move a “relief.”

“Like all parents, we just want our kids to be safe,” Gabbard said in a statement. The Madison School Board has armed poorly trained staff, one of whom has even failed the accuracy test multiple times. Once this decision is implemented, parents will at least know that teachers who carry guns in our schools are properly trained, as required by state law. “

Madison Local Schools President Dave French said they were “disappointed” with the Ohio Supreme Court ruling, but happy with the three Tory justices who backed the policy.

“The board has always done and will continue to do what is in the best interest of our community,” French said in a statement shared with News week. “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 considerable attention, it is only one of many steps the District has taken to ensure student safety. We are considering and exploring all of our options moving forward, and hope the Ohio General Assembly considers taking action to correct this decision. “

Everytown for Gun Safety, the nation’s largest gun violence prevention organization, represented the parents in the lawsuit. The advocacy group said Wednesday that Ohio’s training standards for carrying firearms in schoolyards “exist for good reason.”

“Finally, parents in Ohio will now have the assurance that if teachers have access to firearms in classrooms and schools in the district, they have completed the training required by Ohio law.” , Alla Lefkowitz, director of affirmative litigation for Everytown Law, said in a statement. A declaration.

Several groups, including two teachers’ unions and the Ohio Fraternal Police Order, filed briefs in favor of parents during the court battle.

But legislation being considered at the Ohio General Assembly would exempt school employees from the state’s training requirement. The full training of peace officers is currently set at 728 hours.

State Representative Thomas Hall, a Republican who sponsored House Bill 99 to lower training standards, denounced the court ruling on Wednesday.

“The Ohio General Assembly has a responsibility to empower our school districts to protect their students and staff by enacting local control and establishing appropriate basic training requirements for educators to carry a gun. fire, “Hall said in a statement.

Update (6/23/2021, 3:20 p.m. EST): This story has been updated to include commentary from Madison Local Schools President Dave French.

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