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The debate over arming teachers heats up

Posted at 3:08 PM, Aug 24, 2018
and last updated 2018-08-24 18:40:00-04

A report from the New York Times created quite the hoopla on Thursday when it said Education Secretary Betsy DeVos was considering using federal funding to buy firearms for teachers through a vague grant program. While there has been some pushback against the report, nothing official has come out of the White House.

The reports detailed how inquiries from Texas districts led DeVos to examine the mere possibility of whether guns can be federally funded, and at the very least, brought the unsettled debate, about arming school staff, back to the front page with a local conversation happening now too. 

RELATED: Trump admin disputes NYT report on Education Department plan to arm teachers

"They floated this political balloon yesterday to see what response they would get," national school security consultant Ken Trump said.

Trump said his opinion on guns in schools, funded or not, is to take other measures first. 

"We know what really works is not arming civilians and teachers and school staff but creating an environment where kids come forward and report a weapon or a plot, having threat assessment training and protocol and having emotional and mental health support for kids," Ken Trump said. 

In Ohio, a few districts have come forward, transparently, that anonymous staff members are now carrying weapons: Indian Valley, Newcomerstown, Coshocton, River View and East Guernsey. 

News 5 previously reported that Tuscarawas County schools are allowing armed staff, but they are keeping all other details confidential.

Other districts are still on the fence. 

RELATED: Ashland County school district seeks public input on arming staff

When News 5 touched base Friday, Hillsdale's superintendent said their school board is still considering a voluntary concealed carry for school staff. 

According to the Ohio Board of Education, school boards can legally allow staff to carry concealed weapons in school. They don't have to publicize that choice.

Sara Clark, the chief legal counsel for the Ohio School Boards Association, also provided the following statement: 

"Ohio school boards may authorize certain individuals to carry firearms in schools. However, possession of a concealed firearm requires an individual to possess a conceal carry license, which can be obtained only through the state. As a result, while a school board may authorize staff to carry firearms, it doesn't have the power to allow staff to carry concealed firearms unless those staff members have a concealed carry license.

"Districts do not have to publicize the fact that they've authorized staff to carry firearms. OSBA does not keep track of which districts arm staff/teachers and I'm not aware of an official statewide list or database that is being maintained."

So there's no record of how many of Ohio's 610 public districts already allow teachers to carry guns, funding or not. 

The American Federation of Teachers, National Education Association and Fraternal Order of Police have all come forward against guns in schools and the idea of funding guns in schools. 

Here is AFT's issued the following statement:

AFT President Randi Weingarten on Betsy DeVos’ Plan to Purchase Guns to Arm Educators

Statement by American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten on reports that Education Secretary Betsy DeVos wants to use federal funds to purchase guns to arm educators:

“We knew Betsy DeVos would try to do the bidding of the National Rifle Association and the gun manufacturers, but to even consider diverting resources used to support poor kids to flood schools with more guns is beyond the recklessness we believed she was willing to pursue. Instead of after-school programs or counselors, programs that are critical for creating safe and welcoming schools and addressing the mental health needs of kids, DeVos wants to turn schools into armed fortresses and make kids and educators less safe. She wants to turn the U.S. government into an arms dealer for schools. That’s insane.

“Educators, students and parents have made clear that they don’t want more guns in schools, they want to teach and learn. I sent a letter to President Trump following the Parkland, Fla., shootings asking to meet to talk about why adding more guns to schools won’t make them safe. Teachers and students have testified against this idea in Washington and across the country. And even responsible gun owners have spoken out to say this is a dangerous plan. 

“Does Betsy DeVos want a kindergarten teacher interacting with her students with a holstered gun on her hip? She needs to stop acting as the lobbyist for the NRA and start acting in the interests of children, parents and the educators she has a duty to serve and protect as education secretary.”