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Madison Local Schools board votes to allow arming of teachers, staff

Posted at 9:43 AM, Apr 25, 2018
and last updated 2018-04-25 20:34:42-04

MIDDLETOWN, Ohio -- The Madison Local School District board voted unanimously Tuesday night to allow district teachers and staff to carry weapons as part a plan to implement a school safety training program operated by a pro-gun lobby group.

The vote came more than two years after 14-year-old Austin Hancock brought a gun into the cafeteria at Madison Junior-Senior High School and shot two classmates. Two others were injured by flying shrapnel or while trying to get out of the way. 

Those people must "be permitted under Ohio law to carry a concealed handgun and must undergo response to active shooter training and re-certify each year prior to being authorized to convey and/or possess deadly weapons or dangerous ordnance in a school safety zone of the Madison Local School District," according to language in the resolution.

District officials said the resolution is just the first step in a plan to participate in the Faculty/Administrator Safety Training and Emergency Response program, which is a branch of the Buckeye Firearms Association, according to its website. The program consists of 26 hours of training in armed response, crisis management and emergency medical aid, officials said in an announcement Wednesday.

"The safety of each and every child in this community has to be out district's highest priority," board President Dave French said in a written statement. "I hope out community understands that the FASTER program is so much more than just about arming staff in our schools. The training that is part of the program will make our district more safe and our staff better prepared to handle an emergency situation."

The Buckeye Firearms Association is a nonprofit that lobbies lawmakers to pass pro-gun legislation and provides training and other resources for gun owners.

Training and certification could take months, so whether anyone would be armed before next school year is not clear.

Madison Township residents were split on the board's decision. 

"I'm opposed to the idea of teachers having guns in school," Bill Ison said.

Ison has lived in Madison Township nearly 40 years. His two children graduated from the high school, as did one grandson. Another grandchild of his is currently a junior there. He said the decision was made without public comment.

"Just because someone wants to carry a gun in school is no reason that we should have people carrying guns in our school," he said.

Chris Richardson said he thinks it's a good idea. He's a 2015 Madison High School graduate and said he happened to be in the cafeteria the day Hancock shot his classmates.

"I mean, if it ever happens again, we'll have more people that can protect us," he said.

The movement to arm teachers resurfaced after the February 14 mass shooting at a Florida high school that left 17 dead and 15 hospitalized.

President Donald Trump suggested offering bonuses to teachers who carry firearms just days after the shooting. 

"These people are cowards. They're not going to walk into a school if 20 percent of the teachers have guns -- it may be 10 percent or may be 40 percent. And what I'd recommend doing is the people that do carry, we give them a bonus. We give them a little bit of a bonus," Trump said. "They'll frankly feel more comfortable having the gun anyway. But you give them a little bit of a bonus."

Butler County Sheriff Richard Jones also publicly advocated for arming teachers. He offered to host free concealed carry classes for area school teachers. About 100 educators participated in the class. 

But not all teachers are in favor of carrying a firearm in the classroom. Ludlow Independent Schools Superintendent Mike Borchers said officials need to consider anything they can do to ensure the safety of students, but he said he’s not sure if arming teachers is the best approach.

“Teachers are inherently coached to be nurturers, and when you have more guns in schools that can be a difficult situation -- doesn’t mean it’s right or wrong," Borchers said. “I think it’s something we all have to look at from our own situations.”  

Dawn Laber, principal of Moyer Elementary School, said school officials need to arm themselves with the right tools in terms of preparation, not with weapons. 

In Ohio, whether teachers can carry firearms is a decision for each district. Edgewood City Schools in Trenton adopted a concealed carry policy in 2013, according to the Dayton Daily News.