No parents supported arming teachers at Hamilton school board meeting

HAMILTON, Ohio -- Butler County Sheriff Richard Jones, a longtime advocate of placing armed personnel in schools to deter mass shootings, was pleased Wednesday to learn Hamilton City Schools planned to begin arming some of its teachers and implementing random metal-detector wand checks of students during the 2018-19 school year. 

The parents who spoke at a Thursday evening school board meeting were not. None of them voiced support for the change.

"I don't feel safer," one parent said of the planned changes. "I feel more concerned."

Some of their objections were so strenuous that superintendent Larry Knapp said the board planned to "slow" the implementation process, although he did not clarify how or by how much. In the meantime, the board of education plans to hold additional meetings to gather more public input. 

"(There's) a lot of emotion attached to it," Knapp said. "I think you saw that in the crowd tonight, and it warrants the discussion."

He said carrying a weapon will be voluntary for teachers and that the list of criteria to be able to have one is lengthy. Only two of the district's 1,100 staffers are currently qualified to carry a gun at school under the new safety plan, according to Knapp.

"You hope you never have to use it, but we have to be prepared for it," Knapp said.

Parents like Jennifer Frechtling said they want to learn more details about the plan.

"I wish that we weren't in this situation at all, but it does make me feel a little safer," she said.

Administrators started putting together the plan with Hamilton police back in February. Knapp said he recently also brought the plan to Butler County Sheriff Richard Jones for further review. Jones has been an advocate for arming school employees with guns.

Knapp said an email will go out to staff explaining the application process to be armed in the district's schools. Whoever does do this will be highly trained in case of a serious threat in addition to taking CCW classes, he said.

"We're looking at the person as an individual, what their background is and do they have the right personality and the right demeanor to be in that situation, because those are high-stress situations," Knapp said.

Arming some employees is part of a bigger plan that includes adding more school resource officers and starting a mental health outreach program for students. 

Despite questions about what school safety should look like, school board officials agreed they wanted more of it. The board unanimously voted to participate in a county tax levy that would fund additional school security measures.

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