COLUMBUS, Ohio — The following article was originally published in the Ohio Capital Journal and published on News5Cleveland.com under a content-sharing agreement.
Ohio’s Attorney General Dave Yost this week put his support behind a Butler County school district’s policy to arm school personnel.
“This case presents the question whether school districts may allow non-security employees to carry firearms on school grounds,” Yost wrote in a brief to the court. “The answer is yes.”
Yost filed the brief as an interested party in the case of Gabbard v. Madison Local School District Board of Education, a case in which parents at the school sued to keep the school from implementing such a policy.
The attorney general, who is the chief legal officer for the state and the overseer of the Ohio Peace Officer Training Academy, said his interest in the case focused on allowing school districts to make their own security decisions.
“The Attorney General has an interest in ensuring that, so long as they comply with Ohio law, Ohio’s local school districts may make decisions about how best to protect Ohio’s school children,” Yost wrote.
The bill had three hearings in the committee, in which it received two statements of support — one from the Buckeye Firearms Association and the other from the National Rifle Association — and hundreds of individuals testifying against the bill. Many were from advocacy group Moms Demand Action.
In his brief, Yost argued the 12th District Court of Appeals was mistaken in reversing the decision of a lower court. The appeals court stopped the district from implementing a firearms authorization policy, and Yost disagreed with the court’s argument that peace officer training was needed for armed personnel that enter a school. The provision of the law requiring the peace officer training says armed personnel are designated as a “special police officer, security guard, or other position in which such a person goes armed while on duty.”
The brief argued that teachers, principals, and other personnel, even armed ones, are not employed as security personnel, therefore they do not fall under the same rules as those paid for specific security duties.
“To the contrary, they are employed in a position for which being armed is irrelevant; they just voluntarily choose to carry a weapon,” Yost said. “No one would describe a salesman or a valet who carries a concealed weapon as being ‘employed in a position in which such a person goes armed while on duty.’”
Even if teachers were mandated to take peace officer training, Yost said “much of the program would be a waste of time,” including classes on driving a patrol car, interacting with the media, human relations, domestic violence and field-sobriety testing.
“All of this training is valuable for Ohio police officers, who regularly rely on it in carrying out their various law-enforcement duties,” Yost said. “But it is quite irrelevant to school teachers and administrators who wish only to carry a firearm so they are prepared to deal with an active shooter.”
Yost went on to say if the state Supreme Court accepted the 12th District’s logic, “it would strip school districts of the freedom to decide for themselves whether arming school employees is an effective means to deter and mitigate mass shootings.”
The court has agreed to speed up the process of deciding the case in light of a new school year, and has said the school can go on with security measures until the court makes a final decision.