A teacher walks among the the masked students sitting in a socially distanced classroom session. (Photo by Jon Cherry/Getty Images).
Some teachers-turned-legislators urged their colleagues to vote against a bill to authorize school boards to allow teachers and other school personnel to come armed to school.
House Bill 99 would create a minimum amount of training, 20 hours initially and four hours on a recurring basis, for educators to bring guns to school. The bill passed out of the House on a 58-33 vote, with the only GOP “no” vote coming from former elementary school teacher and state Rep. Gayle Manning, R-North Ridgeville.
Bill sponsor Thomas Hall, R-Madison Twp., said the bill is especially necessary for rural areas where first responders aren’t as populous and can take longer to get to schools in the event of an emergency.
“Some of the inner city schools have police officers at their school, some of these rural schools don’t have that luxury,” Hall said.
State Rep. Stephanie Howse, D-Cleveland, took issue with the idea that the bill would be universally welcomed in schools, particularly in predominantly Black schools, as well as those that have to pass through metal detectors just to get into schools.
“Ask our Black boys … how safe will they feel knowing that they have armed teachers,” Howse said. “When you look statistically, our children, Black babies, are overcriminalized.”
The bill was opposed by the Fraternal Order of Police and several Ohio teachers unions, including Ohio Education Association and the Ohio Federation of Teachers.
House Speaker Bob Cupp said the bill represented an important option for school districts looking to protect kids.
“I’m comfortable my school district would set adequate training and they wouldn’t authorize anybody that wasn’t capable of doing it safely,” he said.
One of the former teachers who spoke against the bill, state Rep. Mary Lightbody, D-Westerville, said her work educating the future teachers of the state does not lead her to discuss “how to become a security officer” as they do their work.
“I would never want a teacher to be in that circumstance and to fire a gun and hit a student, or worse, kill one,” Lightbody said. “I have deep respect for the work the police officers and school resource officers do, and I would not want to ask any teacher to assume that same responsibility.”
From a law enforcement standpoint, former Montgomery County Sheriff, now state Rep. Phil Plummer, R-Dayton, said arming teachers can only shorten the “lengthy” process it takes to get first responders to schools in an active shooter situation.
“We’ve got to arm these teachers to give those kids a fighting chance,” Plummer said. “We’re training teachers, we’re securing weapons, we’re giving them best (identification) that they’re friendlies, they’re not the person creating the school shooting.”
Plummer said the culture of “kids killing kids” has to change, but the bill would be a protection mechanism until that happens.
“Our best chance is training these teachers, keeping guns in schools, and trying to isolate the problem until the first responders can get there,” Plummer said.
The bill has been through various revisions over 10 months, which led to a change that allowed school district board of education to approve more training beyond the minimum requirements if they choose, at their own cost.
The bill now heads to the Senate for consideration.
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