CINCINNATI — House Bill 99, proposed Ohio legislation that would allow trained school employees to carry handguns, is loaded with controversy. Some think the lawmakers are rushing the bill through the legislature. Others said it protects vulnerable targets.
"We still do not have a police force here in Manchester," said Dr. Brian Rau, superintendent of Manchester Local Schools. "So if something were to happen, it could take upwards of 20 minutes at the earliest for law enforcement to arrive at the school. We had to do something to ensure that we were protected somehow."
Four years ago, Rau let those on his staff interested apply for the right to carry handguns on campus. Law enforcement vetted each, he said. Then, applicants went through three eight-hour training sessions at the Tactical Defense Institute. Specialists with Faculty and Administrator Safety Training and Emergency Response (FASTER) determined those fit to carry and not every applicant passed on the first attempt, Rau said.
Manchester schools ran the program until state courts stepped in. The Ohio Supreme Court required hundreds of hours of training in a 2021 ruling. House Bill 99 would require just 32, including eight hours of annual re-certification training.
"Who is paying for it?" said Michelle Dillingham, a spokesperson for the Cincinnati Federation of Teachers. "What is the liability of districts if a teacher fires a firearm and someone is shot? I mean, all of these unanswered questions, unintended consequences, that's why we are saying stop rushing this legislation through."
Districts across the state braced for debate. On the Fairfield Local Schools campus in Leesburg, leaders expect to take cues from parents and community members. Others plan to lean on guidance from county educational service centers.
"Up until now, there's been no discussion in any Warren County school districts regarding arming teachers with firearms," Warren County Educational Service Center Superintendent Jeff Isaacs said.
Leaders in Mason said their district already spends $1 million dollars a year on armed school security. Without such resources, Manchester's next move is clearer than most. Their trained staff likely just needs re-certification training to again become their district's first line of defense for the campus, Rau said.
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