Ohio's state school board urged not to arm teachers

COLUMBUS, Ohio - Top state law enforcers urged members of Ohio's state school board on Tuesday not to support arming untrained teachers with guns in response to recent school shootings, including at a northeast Ohio high school and at Connecticut's Sandy Hook Elementary.

"I hope you don't give guns to teachers in schools," Public Safety Director Tom Charles told the Ohio State Board of Education during a half-day school-safety briefing. "More guns aren't the answer."

Lawmakers especially in Republican-dominated states responded to the Sandy Hook tragedy, in which 26 children and staff were killed, with bills allowing teachers to carry hidden guns in schools to boost self-defense. The bills followed calls by the National Rifle Association for armed guards in schools.

In the wake of emotional public debate, Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine told the board Tuesday that he tries to remind the public that schools are still among the safest places children can be -- compared statistically to, say, riding in a car.

He urged the school board to arm educators with information -- not firearms.

"This is up to the local schools, but I would never, if I was on a school board, have anybody who is untrained with a gun in that school," he said.

DeWine said training required to obtain an Ohio concealed-carry permit is not enough.

"That's not the kind of training I'm talking about," he said. "I would want someone who had been in the military or who has been a police officer or who has taken some extensive courses, that's beyond a 12-hour course."

DeWine's office has distributed a training video to school districts across the state designed to help educators identify the warning signs in a potential future shooter and advising them on the latest response techniques.

Kenneth Hinkle, president of the Ohio Association of Chiefs of Police, said locking schools down during attacks is no longer considered the wisest approach to keeping children safe. He pointed to 4 1/2  minutes during the Columbine High School tragedy during which the shooter was outside the library and those inside might have escaped.

DeWine said his video gives teachers and administrators such information, so they can make informed decisions.

"If the shooter's at the other end of the building and you're on the first floor and you get a window open, you probably want to get those kids out of there," he said. "A lockdown waiting until that guy gets in your room to kill everybody is probably not what we want to be doing."

Board President Debe Terhar said she was relieved to hear opinions on lockdowns is shifting.

"It's wonderful to hear that we're moving away from the idea of shelter-in-place as the only option," Terhar said. "As a former teacher being in charge of 24 3- to 6-year-olds, I always thought that it was totally illogical to have those children as sitting ducks. That just didn't make sense."

State Sen. Frank LaRose, an Akron-area Republican, told the board a school-safety working group he's led is coalescing around four policy proposals: establishing an anonymous reporting system for suspicious activity; standardizing the format of school safety plans filed with the state; requiring schools to set up and regularly convene a committee on school safety; encouraging local police to make regular unannounced visits at schools.

He said random police visits are a way to thwart potential criminal activity at less cost than hiring full-time armed guards at every school, as the National Rifle Association has recommended.

LaRose, who spent time in the U.S. special forces, agreed with DeWine, Charles, Hinkle and other presenters that arming teachers isn't the safest way to go.

He said individuals without significant training can have poor aim and uneven target identification skills -- meaning they risk shooting the wrong person in a crisis.

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