The long battle over whether armed teachers must have extensive police-level training is over, as the Ohio Supreme Court ruled today that staffers must have hundreds of hours of training before they carry guns in school, according to the Journal-News.
A group of parents sued Madison Schools in September 2018 seeking an injunction blocking the district from allowing teachers and other staff to carry guns without the training required of law enforcement officials — 728 hours versus the 24 hours the school has in its policy.
In a 4-3 decision issued this morning, the majority of the justices agreed state law requires advanced training before staff can carry concealed weapons on campus.
School districts that already implemented allowances for teachers and staff to carry guns must now require them to holster their weapons until they've received the proper training.
"Safety is still top priority," said Dr. Brian Rau, superintendent at Manchester Local School District. "But we did take a step backwards today."
Rau said the ruling has ended his district's program of training and arming selective staff members just one year after it was implemented.
"I couldn't believe it," he said. "I have no idea what some of these folks are thinking. What they've done today is they've weakened school districts in Ohio when it comes to safety."
The Ohio State Supreme Court's ruling requires staff to go through 729 hours of law enforcement training, or have 20 years experience as a peace officer in order to carry a weapon in a school.
Manchester Local Schools were requiring staff to complete a training called FASTER -- Faculty and Administration Safety Training and Emergency Response. It was a three-day class with around 26 hours of hands-on training.
The Ohio Education Association called Wednesday's ruling a step in the right direction.
"But if a school district decides to do that, it is critically important that anyone who is authorized to carry a weapon in school is properly trained," said Scott DiMauro, president of the Ohio Education Association.
At Princeton High School, science teacher Lonnie Dusch believes asking school staff to carry weapons would make it impossible to be effective at his job.
"Personally, I don't think it's a good idea to have teachers both armed and trying to educate at the same time," he said. "The two tasks require very different goals, very different focuses."
At Manchester Local Schools, Rau said the district is now left with one armed school resource officer and a sheriff's office that could be 30 minutes away during an emergency. He said he wants legislators to allow districts to continue arming staff who are trained through programs like FASTER.
He said forcing school staff to complete police training that might include courses on driving, investigating and forensics is not relevant to their role of keeping schools safe.
"I'm frustrated because we have put a lot of time and energy into our safety program and today it took a massive step backwards," said Rau.
Chief Justice Maureen O’Connor wrote the opinion citing sections of the Ohio Revised Code that requires peace officer training, saying a certain provision “does not provide schools with a mechanism to circumvent that requirement. Because the board’s April 2018 resolution purports to authorize certain school employees to go armed while on duty without also requiring that those employees satisfy the training-or-experience requirement (violates state law).”
The Madison school board enacted a policy two years after a 2016 school shooting in the district. It allows 10 staffers to carry weapons on campus, if they have 24-hour FASTER gun safety training, the eight-hour training to obtain a concealed carry license and other requirements.
Retired Common Pleas Court Judge Charles Pater previously ruled teachers and other staff are not peace officers and therefore do not require police levels of training. The Twelfth District Court of Appeals disagreed and ordered the school district to stop the program without much more involved training. The school district appealed to the Ohio Supreme Court last year.