Gov. Mike DeWine addresses arming teachers during school safety event. Photo by Morgan Trau, WEWS.
The following article was originally published on News5Cleveland.com and is published in the Ohio Capital Journal under a content-sharing agreement. Unlike other OCJ articles, it is not available for free republication by other news outlets as it is owned by WEWS in Cleveland.
Gov. Mike DeWine announced millions in state funding for school safety, while also addressing a controversial bill that would allow educators to carry guns in schools.
A total of 1,183 K-12 schools across Ohio can apply for money to pay for security upgrades.
Schools will be able to apply for up to $50,000 to cover security items like cameras, automatic door locks and visitor badging systems. The application should be coming out within the next two weeks.
“The goal is really to make sure that every school in the state, every school in the state meets basic security needs,” DeWine said. “The people who work in our schools have historically done a phenomenal job in keeping our children safe.”
The thousands come from the nearly $47 million from the Ohio K-12 School Safety Grant Program. This program started in 2021 with $5 million from the 133rd General Assembly but has since increased this year by an additional $100 million with support from the American Rescue Plan Act.
“Helping schools pay for important security improvements is just one component of our comprehensive school safety approach that also supports the mental wellbeing of our kids and the work of local law enforcement to prevent crime.”
But all eyes were focused on House Bill 99.
“This has gotten a lot of attention and let me just say that, in my opinion, there’s an awful lot of other things that are important in regard to school safety besides what this bill provides,” DeWine said. “And what the bill talks about, or at least what’s got the most attention in this bill, of course, is the option that schools have toarm teachers.”
Sub H.B. 99 would give a school board the option to allow any adult in a school to carry a firearm with an ambiguous amount of training. The decision to do this has led to dozens of national and international headlines, especially due to its proximity to the Uvalde mass shooting.
“Again, a lot of focus, the news media, understandably has been on this,” DeWine added. “All the other things that you do every day, all the other things that you do to keep kids safe are frankly a lot bigger than that.”
Although the governor is asking everyone to complete 24 hours of training, he says he doesn’t know how much of that training will be holding a live firearm versus instruction. The curriculum is being drafted. At this point, a number of details have not been decided on.
DeWine himself said he would rather not have had it come to this.
“My preference would be for a police officer, a school safety officer,” the governor said in a press conference after signing the bill, regarding his thoughts on guns in schools while he was attorney general. “That was my personal opinion that I expressed at that time and I still follow that.”
Despite the money being funneled into this program, the majority of Northeast Ohio schools say this proposal isn’t for them
In a statement to News 5, Solon City School District said, in part: “Our school campus and buildings are gun-free zones…We do not foresee a change in that policy.”
All different types of schools across the state are choosing not to, including in cities, suburbs and more rural areas. Some haven’t decided yet.
“At this time, the district and the Board of Education are simply monitoring developments in relation to House Bill 99 and seeing what the implications are for the school district,” Superintendent of Chardon Schools, Michael Hanlon said. “We’ve made no decision relative to that at this point.”
From News 5 records, only a few schools across the state have decided or are leaning towards arming staff, including Newcomerstown Exempted Village Schools in Tuscarawas County.
Mary Davis, former executive director of the Ohio Peace Officer Training Academy, has been selected to serve as the as chief training officer overseeing OSSC’s new Safety & Crisis Division, the governor also announced.
She will be in charge of developing and providing training for school staff members whose districts opt to allow certain employees to be armed on school grounds.
At least four of the 24 hours have to be training of “scenario-based” or simulated training exercises, but it is unclear if that needs to be with a live weapon. Although it is not specified how much time is needed, there is a requirement to complete “tactical live firearms training.”
When pulling DeWine aside after his announcement at the summit, his team answered that it would “definitely” be more than two minutes.
The two minutes comment comes from News 5 stating that, technically, since the bill doesn’t state the length of time someone has to practice with a live firearm, it could be anywhere from two minutes to four hours.
“The 24-hours, there will be a heavy influence on how that individual handles the gun,”an official said. “And there are people who are not going to pass that.”
Not passing a test isn’t completely rare in Ohio.
In 2021, 38 schools out of the 5,600 did not complete their annual emergency management test, News 5 Investigators found.
EMTs are designed to test a school’s “response” procedures as outlined in the Emergency Operations Plan.
In a statement, a state spokesman wrote, “It’s our understanding that the delay was likely due to the pandemic. The OSSC works with schools to try to get compliance even if they are delayed to ensure the schools are prepared for emergencies.”
The state has not released the names or locations of the schools that failed to complete the testing, citing an exemption that allows agencies to withhold information that’s deemed “security records.”
H.B. 99 has an annual requalification training, but it can’t be more than eight hours. That being said, the bill does not prohibit a school district from requiring additional training — it just can’t be mandated by the state.
Another question to DeWine was about Sen. Frank Hoagland’s gun training business. Back in June, News 5 discovered the Republican from Mingo Junction, who wrote the bill, could financially benefit from it.
The senator owns a business called S.T.A.R.T., which represents Special Tactics and Rescue Training. It is a firearm training and threat management business that specializes in school safety training.
When asked if Hoagland’s business could benefit, DeWine and his team weren’t sure. The local school districts would make those decisions at the local level, the state would just be approving them, they said.
When News 5 stated that this was a question about ethics, the governor and his team nodded and another state official chuckled.
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