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In-Depth: Ohio House Bill 99 raises debate over armed school security training

In-Depth: Ohio H.B. 99 raise debate over armed school security training
Posted at 10:30 PM, Mar 30, 2021

CLEVELAND — Some Northeast Ohio parents and local state lawmakers are concerned House Bill 99 will set-up some school safety concerns if it becomes law later this year.

The measure would give Ohio school districts and school boards the option to lower required weapons training for armed school security personnel and staff to as little as eight hours.

Ohio House Minority Leader Rep. Emilia Sykes, Ohio House District 34 (D), told News 5 she's against H.B. 99 because she believes it's a minimum training requirement that could set-up a potentially hazardous situation in schools statewide.

“I would error on the side of more training rather than less," Sykes said.

"I spoke with some Northeast Ohio middle school students last year about similar legislation, and the students there told me that they were concerned that they would be shot involuntarily by a teacher, or during a situation where people could not get a situation under control.”

House Bill 99 co-sponsor Rep. Reggie Stoltzfus, District 50 (R) told News 5 the measure would give school districts options, and insulate them against on-going legal action that could later require them to have all armed security personnel obtain training from the Ohio Peace Officer Training Academy, which totals hundreds of hours.

"It gives some direction to school boards, which I think is needed,” Stoltzfus said.

“I think 500 to 700 hours is way too much, if somebody is going to do that they’re going to pursue a career in law enforcement.”

“It’s a gray area, and that’s what we’re trying to nail down in this bill, let’s set a minimum so that school districts and school boards can work off of that minimum. And if they want to raise that bar to OPATA certification, they can do that.”

“All school districts in Ohio are different, they’re different in Stark County, where I live. They’re different in Dayton, they’re different in Akron.”

“To have a paid resource officer in every building with OPATA certification, it’s unattainable. Show me where the money is going to come from."

Dean Rieck, Executive Director with the Buckeye Firearms Association agrees H.B. 99 is needed to shield districts against on-going legal action that's made it to the Ohio Supreme Court, involving the Madison School District, that could create a requirement for school districts to have armed security personnel with OPATA training.

"That’s over 700 hours of training, that’s absurd. Basically, the effect it would have is that it would prevent anyone from being armed in a school, other than a police officer."

However, some local parents, like community activist Liajuana Clark, agree with Rep. Sykes and is against H.B. 99. Clark is a Mother of six children, who attend the Garfield Heights and East Cleveland school districts, and told News 5 creating such a low minimum training standard for armed school security and staff could create a safety issue.

“I’m uncomfortable with the idea of less training," Clark said. "More training is required as far as I’m concerned, I don’t feel it’s safe.”

“I don’t think that teachers should be running around carrying guns, like what are you really teaching.”

“The training also needs to include background evaluations, mental health, emotional stability, and make sure they don’t have a history of abuse of power.”