Duties and functions

Schools Can’t Arm Teachers Without Proper Training, Ohio Supreme Court Says

School districts do not have the discretion to authorize the arming of teachers, according to a Wednesday decision from the Ohio Supreme Court.

The state’s highest court issued its ruling on Wednesday, going against legislative efforts and pro-gun lobby groups who believed local control should be part of gun policies in Ohio schools.

The court heard arguments on the case back in january.

The local Madison School District passed a resolution in April 2018 granting written permission from the school board to those deemed appropriate by the district superintendent to enter school property with guns. After the resolution was passed, a group of parents and gun control advocates, led by mother Erin Gabbard, sued the school to prevent the resolution from being implemented.

The main debate in the court case has been whether a school employee would be considered a “special constable or security guard” if allowed to be armed by a school district. If considered an officer or guard, that district employee will need to undergo law enforcement training.

The policy allowed up to ten employees to carry concealed firearms, under a state concealed carry permit and with at least 24 hours of “active shooter response training.” The policy also required armed employees to have a qualification for handguns, pass a criminal background check and mental health exam, as well as “training on mental readiness to respond to active killers.”

The Supreme Court upheld a 12e District Court of Appeals ruling in a divided court, in which it said the school district’s resolution violated Ohio law by allowing school employees to carry a deadly weapon “without training or experience required by law “.

The High Court has spent time deconstructing the language of the law, particularly the definition of a person authorized to enter school grounds while armed. This language included special police officers, security guards and any “other post in which such an employee is armed while on duty”.

“The fact that an employee may have been hired to teach, coach or perform other primarily non-safety related functions does not change the fact that an employee who carries a weapon in the course of their work” is armed while on duty ‘”O’Connor wrote in the main opinion.

The court ruled that because the Ohio law in question includes special police officers and security guards as well as other positions that require to be armed, these “other positions” can be interpreted as having similar law enforcement functions.

“A person can be hired as a teacher, but when he agrees to go armed while teaching, his duties expand to include additional duties similar to those normally performed by special police officers and police officers. security guards, ”the decision reads.

The court also said Ohio law does not allow school boards to allow their employees to be armed “as long as the employees are undergoing training that a board may deem appropriate.”

“Written authorization from a school board for a person to carry a concealed weapon in a school safety zone does not exonerate the person from criminal liability if the person does not have a valid license to carry such a weapon.” », Declared the majority.

In one of the three dissenting opinions, Justice Sharon Kennedy argued that the “plain language” in the revised Ohio code “denies the criminal liability of a person carrying a gun on school property. when that person is authorized by the school board to do so, ”and disagreed with the majority on the role of an armed teacher.

Kennedy said the court’s analysis should have been based on an exception to the criminal law prohibiting the carrying of a firearm in a school safety zone for law enforcement, security officers or “any other person with written authorization from the board of education ”.

“Because the law allows the school board to grant written permission to anyone to carry a firearm on school property without placing any limitation on the discretion of the school board to do so, the analysis should s ‘stop there,’ Kennedy wrote.

Kennedy also disagreed with the court’s interpretation of the type of training required to be armed at school based on the particular position for which a school employee was hired. Just because a school board allows a teacher to have a gun doesn’t change their position if they’re armed, Kennedy argued.

“If the General Assembly had intended to make the authorization to carry a firearm in a school safety zone conditional on the basic police training required of peace officers, it could have drafted the statute in this way. Kennedy wrote.

Justice Patrick Fischer agreed that it was the responsibility of the General Assembly, not the courts, to determine “to weigh political concerns and to make legislative choices for the benefit of all Ohioans.”

“If the General Assembly had wished to prohibit non-security-related personnel, such as teachers, from carrying weapons on school property without the required training, it could have done and still can do it,” he said. writes Fischer in a separate dissenting opinion. “This tribunal does not have the power to impose this requirement.”

The author of a reintroduced invoice To give school districts local control over gun policy, the decision “only underscores the critical and urgent need to enact Bill 99.”

“The Ohio General Assembly has a responsibility to empower our school districts to protect their students and staff by enacting local control and establishing appropriate basic training requirements for educators to carry a gun. fire, ”said Thomas Hall Rep. R-Madison Twp. , wrote in a statement.

The bill had its last hearing on April 15 in the House Criminal Justice Committee.

As a name at the start of the trial, Gabbard said the decision was a relief for her and parents like her.

“Once this decision is implemented, parents will at least know that the teachers who carry firearms in our schools are properly trained, as required by state law,” Gabbard said in a joint statement with Everytown for Gun Safety gun control group.

This story has been republished from Ohio Capital Newspaper under a Creative Commons license.