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Judge expected to decide Madison schools arming teachers case soon

Posted: 11:52 AM, Feb 13, 2019
Updated: 2019-02-13 16:52:40Z
Madison Junior Senior High School

BUTLER COUNTY, Ohio — Both sides in the Madison schools gun fight say the judge has enough evidence to rule in their favor in two weeks.

The parents who sued the school board and the school district itself have both asked Judge Charles Pater to grant summary judgment — effectively ending the case because there is no “genuine issue of material fact” — on their behalf.

The school district claims the parents misread state statutes that say gun-carrying teachers must have 700 hours-plus of peace officer training. The parents say if the extensive training isn’t required the “implications of the board’s interpretations are deeply troubling.”

A group of parents sued the Board of Education and superintendent in September, alleging the board’s April resolution authorizing armed staff in schools violates an Ohio law requiring that armed school employees be trained and certified as peace officers. The gun program came about after a school shooting there three years ago when four students were injured by a classmate.

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

The parents are seeking an injunction blocking the district from arming teachers and other staff without the training required by law — 728 hours versus the 26 hours the school has in its policy — and a court order requiring disclosure of policies and procedures for arming staff.

The attorneys for the school district told Pater in a motion that Ohio law sanctions school employees carrying concealed firearms to protect the children and doesn’t require lengthy training at the Ohio Peace Officer Training Academy. They read the statute as pertaining only to those individuals whose job it is to carry guns and protect people like school resource officers, not teachers, whose job is to educate.

“The plain language of R.C. 109.78(D) is clear: it does not apply to those staff members authorized to carry a concealed weapon in a school safety zone,” the motion reads. “Instead, the statute requires ‘a special police officer, security guard and other position in which such person goes armed on duty’ to attend OPOTA-approved basic training or otherwise have 20 years experience as a police officer.”

The parents maintain if the statute — that was written explicitly to govern firearms in schools — doesn’t pertain to everyone carrying a gun, then a school district could be setting up a dangerous situation.

“Without requiring rigorous, state-approved training, local school districts can authorize persons to carry firearms around schoolchildren all day, every day, even if they lack basic training, a proper understanding of when lethal force is appropriate, or the mental fortitude to complete a state-approved training,” the motion reads.

Pater has already ruled on the second piece of the lawsuit, saying he won’t issue a court order for some of the requested documents, but if the parents narrow some of their requests, he might reconsider.

The parents had asked the judge to pause the gun program while the lawsuit is pending, but he will hold a hearing later this month on the summary judgment motions.