ASHLAND — After the national gun debate revved up again following the Uvalde, Texas elementary school shooting on May 24, Republicans in the Ohio General Assembly quickly passed a bill last week that would reduce the amount of training school staff would need to carry a gun in school.
House Bill 99 brings the training requirement down from 700 hours to no more than 24 hours. Local school boards can require more training and would still have to approve teachers and staff to go armed in schools.
Hillsdale Local Schools previously discussed arming teachers before dropping it after teachers showed a lack of interest, school board president Vella King said.
“We already have to do teaching, we don’t want to take on one more thing. You know, it’s like we keep taking on more and more and more and more,” King said.
Officials at Ashland City Schools and the Ashland Police Department declined to comment on the bill.
Ashland City Teachers Association co-president Jonathan Court also declined to comment, saying the union had yet to survey its members about the issue. Instead, Court forwarded a press released from the Ohio Federation of Teachers and Ohio Education Association urging Gov. Mike DeWine to veto House Bill 99:
“Teachers and other school employees should not be asked to serve dual roles as educators and school safety personnel armed with weapons, but, if they are, rigorous training standards, as set under current Ohio law, are essential,” the press release said.
“House Bill 99 guts those requirements, capping the state training requirements at 24 hours and putting educators in the impossible position of making split-second life-and-death decisions without sufficient training.”
Proponents of the bill, like its sponsor Rep. Thomas Hall (R-Madison Township), see it as a way to increase school security.
“Since I introduced this bill last year, it has always been about protecting both students and staff at our schools across this state. School safety has always been my priority. In emergency situations at our schools, seconds matter and tragedies can be prevented,” Hall said in a statement.
House Bill 99 awaits Gov. DeWine’s signature, who previously voiced his support for the bill.
“Last week I called on the General Assembly to pass a bill that would allow local school districts, if they so chose, to designate armed staff for school security and safety,” DeWine said on June 1. “My office worked with the General Assembly to remove hundreds of hours of curriculum irrelevant to school safety and to ensure training requirements were specific to a school environment and contained significant scenario-based training.
“House Bill 99 accomplishes these goals, and I thank the General Assembly for passing this bill to protect Ohio children and teachers,” he said. “I look forward to signing this important legislation.”
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