Madison parents sue district, challenging plan to arm teachers

BUTLER COUNTY, Ohio -- A group of parents in the Madison Local School District has sued the Board of Education and superintendent, 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 parents are seeking an injunction blocking the district from arming teachers and other staff without the training required by law and a court order requiring disclosure of policies and procedures for arming staff, according to the lawsuit obtained by the Journal-News.

The district's board voted unanimously in April 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.

“Like many Madison parents, we have serious questions about the district’s resolution and how it will affect our kids’ safety,” Erin Gabbard, a plaintiff and parent of two children attending Madison Elementary School, said in a news release. “We’ve asked repeatedly for answers, but the board is continuing to keep the public in the dark about important details, from requirements for storage to the rules of engagement.”

The lawsuit, filed Wednesday, comes two months after several families delivered a legal letter to the district raising concerns about the process, legality and wisdom of the board’s resolution to arm teachers.

The plaintiffs, five parents with 12 children in district schools, are represented by attorneys from Everytown for Gun Safety Support Fund and Gupta Wessler PLLC.

“If school boards are going to authorize teachers or other staff to carry deadly weapons at school, they must have the extensive training that is specified in Ohio law. The Board is violating that requirement. And, in doing so, it’s putting our plaintiffs’ kids — and all Madison kids — at risk,” Rachel Bloomekatz, a Columbus-based attorney with Gupta Wessler PLLC, said in a news release.

The 137-page lawsuit notes the school district requires staff who want to carry guns complete a 26-hour training course. The lawsuit acknowledges the school board has discretion to allow armed staff, but must follow the law.

“Ohio law does not leave that discretion unbounded,” the lawsuit reads. “Ohio law requires a school employee that goes ‘armed while on duty’ to have first completed a ‘basic peace officer training’ program or have 20 years experience serving as a peace officer. That training is over 700 hours.”

The Journal-News is a media partner of WCPO.

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