The following article was originally published in the Ohio Capital Journal and published on News5Cleveland.com under a content-sharing agreement.
A new version of a bill to allow personnel to be armed in schools has returned to the Ohio legislature, this time with slight changes that could give school districts more control.
House Bill 99 was quickly presented in Thursday’s Ohio House Criminal Justice Committee, only to have a few provisions in the bill changed before the end of the meeting.
It was initially written to create minimum training standards for teachers and school personnel to come armed on school property and to allow the practice in direct response to an Ohio Supreme Court case trying to fight against it.
It was the second iteration of the bill, which was introduced in the last General Assembly. That bill passed the Senate, but didn’t pass through the House before the GA’s end.
Groups ranging from the Fraternal Order of Police to the Ohio Federation of Teachers spent hours testifying against the legislation, saying the bill was not necessary, but that if it persisted, more training had to be included.
Supporters of the bill said in previous hearings that said more protection was always better, particularly in areas where emergency responders could take more time to get to schools because of their location. But they also said consistent training was an important part of school safety.
Changes to the bill made on Thursday allow a school board to determine the “manner in which the person may convey or possess deadly weapons … in a school safety zone,” along with putting the authority on the school board to increase the amount of training needed to be armed in schools.
In terms of minimum training, the newly-changed bill would require a valid concealed handgun license and “initial training” before school personnel are allowed to bring a gun to school, along with annual additional training. The training standards do not apply to law enforcement officers or school resources officers, who already receive training as part of their work.
The original version of the bill did not specify the minimum training, but the new version requires recommendations from the Ohio Peace Officer Training Commission on the training required, including 18 hours of “general training” needed to go armed in schools. Two hours of handgun training are also required, according to changes spelled out in committee by state Rep. D.J. Swearingen, R-Huron.
That two hours of handgun training has to include proper loading and holstering procedures, specific shooting techniques and gun unloading and clearing procedures.
Four hours of “recurring training” are required, but school boards can require more training.
It is on school districts to pay for all trainings they require, according to the bill language.
The bill also requires the board of education for a school district to notify the public that they have authorized “one or more persons to go armed within a school,” but that the notice should not include any information exempt from public records law.
The committee adjourned after making the changes to the bill, meaning more hearings could be on the horizon.