The nation’s debate about arming teachers has a focal point in Butler County. Here’s why.

Published: Monday, March 05, 2018 @ 7:46 AM

Hamilton residents sound off to school board about county sheriff’s idea of arming teachers.

To better save lives, teachers and school employees need lessons about some deadly things, said Butler County Sheriff Richard Jones during an unprecedented week of public lobbying of local education boards to arm school employees.

“Anybody who works in a school needs to go through some kind of class to where they know what a gun sounds like … to where they know what a gun looks like,” said Jones during the first week of his free-of-charge, concealed carry weapon training for teachers and other school staffers.

MORE: Butler County Sheriff starts free conceal carry classes for teachers

The shooting massacre at a Florida high school two weeks ago re-inflamed debates on how best to protect students and others in the nation’s schools.

“Teachers are being killed when shooters go into these schools,” said Jones, adding that school employees need firearm experience so “they can tell where the bullets are coming from (and) they need to know what bullets can do.”

Through his many national and local media appearances Jones has become one of the country’s most recognizable proponents of allowing those teachers who volunteer – and pass CCW training – to carry or have access to handguns in school.

Unlike Jones’ previous public lobbying of schools for more armed personnel in 2013, done in the weeks following the shooting massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Conn. during which a gunman killed 20 first-graders and six adult school staffers, his approach this time is more aggressive.

He used social media to advertise his teacher CCW classes, and his recent messages on Twitter included urging residents to pressure their local school boards for armed teachers.

More than 300 teachers and school staffers have signed up for his recent, highly publicized offer of free CCW training, he said.

“I will supply the (training) personnel and hopefully they (teachers) will know more about guns and save someone’s life,” Jones told this news outlet. “Here is the only alternative you have.

“We have no choice in our society right now. We cannot stop the shootings,” said Jones, but he added, “you also got to make the schools more of a hard target.”

Jones continues to lobby the county’s school officials, saying he has made it easier and cheaper for them.

“If the school boards want to do that, then we do the extra training,” he said.

Board meetings turn into lobbying efforts

Lakota school resident Jeremiah York stepped up the microphone at last week’s meeting of the Lakota school board and cited Jones’ new CCW program for teachers as one of the reasons the board should allow qualified teachers to be armed.

STORY & VIDEO: Lakota board hears from residents about armed teachers

“This must happen and this must happen quickly,” York said. “Since our schools are gun free zones to law abiding citizens, violent criminals are mass murdering our teachers and students around the country.”

He was joined by others backing the idea, but some residents disagreed.

“You don’t stop a forest fire by adding more fuel to it,” Liberty Township resident Aimee Sensing said at the meeting, referencing the idea of injecting more firearms - and possible dangers - into schools aside from those already being carried by school resource officers (SROs).

“I think he (Jones) is doing this for publicity. It’s not something that needs to be put in the public eye like this … I wish the board would make a statement that guns don’t have a place in Lakota Schools.”

The Lakota board took no action but said all new security options are now being considered.

At the Hamilton Board of Education meeting last week, city resident Jim Graham directly challenged board members, telling them he backed Jones’ proposal, saying “I hold you responsible for the safety of my grandchildren at this point.”

STORY & VIDEO: Hamilton residents make pro, con cases about armed teachers

“I saw at the recent shooting in Florida where armed folks in the school could have had an impact and lessened the devastation that occurred there,” Graham said.

“I’m an advocate for paid, armed personnel in our (school) buildings … I am an advocate of having teachers that would be willing to assume some of those roles to do that as well. We probably have teachers in our schools that would be willing to do that.”

But Hamilton resident Lucinda Greene disagreed.

“I am not for Sheriff Jones arming our teachers and personnel,” Greene told the board.

She said the current staff of armed SROs and city police officers’ presence are sufficient.

“We see the police are there. You can see it when you pull up in the parking lot,” she said.

Warren County’s Springboro schools have already acted.

Its school board sent out a Feb. 27 memo to Springboro parents about changes made because of the Parkland school shooting.

These include additional police presence, social media monitoring and the elimination of lunchroom visitors.

“The Springboro Schools’ administrative staff is looking to proactively take steps at countering potential threats, in order to ensure improved security measures across our district,” the memo read.

Nearby Franklin Schools saw its board discuss plans to add a police officer to its high school.

Current Ohio law – unless altered by local school boards – limits school personnel to keeping their handguns locked in their cars while on school property.

A small number of Ohio’s 608 public school systems have seen their boards pass resolutions to expand those CCW rights to allow for certified school personnel to carry a holstered handgun or have access to a gun in their school buildings.

The vast majority of schools in Ohio and locally, however, continue to use the traditional strategy of partnerships with local law enforcement to provide armed school resource officers (SROs) who are often police officers or sheriff deputies.

Complicating the recent, heightened public discussions of school security is the reluctance of school – and local police officials – to conduct any public, detailed discussions of building security so as not to reveal school security vulnerabilities to potential attackers.

Moreover, there are 49 public school districts in southwest Ohio alone – and dozens of non-public schools – and many vary widely in regard to the age, configuration and quality of school buildings and level of local district funding available for security measures.

Jones cautioned that his department’s training does not mean teachers will be armed in Butler County Schools soon. That is up to individual school boards to permit.

Lakota board member Lynda O’Connor said complex problems rarely have simple solutions.

“I think we see the impact on our students when they don’t feel safe in an environment. Security isn’t one thing. It’s a multi-layered approach and we’re going to spend a great amount of time and diligence making sure we looked at every option available to us,” said O’Connor.

Fellow board member Todd Parnell said, “this is a very emotional and contentious issue.”

“I don’t believe flooding schools with guns is a good idea, however, I don’t think we should prevent highly qualified (arms training) educators from carrying (CCW) if they want to do so,” said Parnell.

“We owe it to the community to look at every option,” he said.


Since Butler County Sheriff Richard Jones announced that he would offer free CCW training to teachers, this news organization has been following the progress of those classes to report on what’s happening. We will continue to report on the issue as new developments happen.

Trending - Most Read Stories

5 things to know about the continuing absence of Hamilton’s school superintendent

Published: Friday, March 23, 2018 @ 12:15 PM

            Hamilton Schools Superintendent Tony Orr remains on paid leave - under order of the city’s school board - as questions continue as to why? The school board has reviewed an independent investigator’s report into allegations Orr violated board policies but members are not commenting.
Hamilton Schools Superintendent Tony Orr remains on paid leave - under order of the city’s school board - as questions continue as to why? The school board has reviewed an independent investigator’s report into allegations Orr violated board policies but members are not commenting.

The questions about why the leader of one of Ohio’s largest school systems was ordered on leave continue in Hamilton.

Since Feb. 5, Hamilton schools Superintendent Tony Orr has been absent by orders of the school board.

A long executive session on Thursday saw Hamilton Board of Education members emerge the same way they went into the private meeting – without comment.

MORE: School board meets in private session to discuss future of Hamilton school leader

Here are five things to know about this situation:

1. Neither side is talking. Outside of released statements from the board and Orr shortly after the superintendent’s paid leave was ordered, there has been no comments from either party. The board cited allegations Orr violated board policies.

2. The community is talking. Rumors as to why Orr was ordered on leave continue to swirl through the 10,000-student city schools and the city of more than 62,000 residents.

A handful of parents have consistently spoken at school board meetings since early February asking why Orr was told to leave.

School parent and Orr supporter Randy Romer has been among them, and he said “the rumors are exploding.”

3. The board said allegations do not involve students. This news outlet has checked repeatedly with Hamilton police to see if they are conducting any investigation involving Orr in any manner, and officials there said no.

In his only statement to date, Orr said he did not know the nature of the allegations against him and expressed confidence he will be exonerated and returned to his superintendent’s job.

4. It could end Monday. On Thursday the board reviewed an independent investigation report, joined by the school system’s attorney. Board members declined to comment Thursday regarding the investigation’s report, but they said the board plans to meet on Monday at 5 p.m. and again will go into private, executive session as allowed by Ohio law for boards discussing personnel matters.

5. Teachers union representatives wanted to be heard. Some members of the union representing teachers in Hamilton schools attended the special board meeting Thursday, where the board took some actions on unrelated motions before convening into executive session.

Debra Gann, president of the Hamilton Classroom Teachers Association, asked Isgro, “Do you have any idea when you might make a decision” on Orr’s job status?

Isgro replied, “We are going to have to probably study the (investigator’s) report and make a decision from there.”

Trending - Most Read Stories

Hamilton school board discusses superintendent on paid leave in executive session

Published: Thursday, March 22, 2018 @ 4:32 PM
Updated: Thursday, March 22, 2018 @ 7:44 PM

            Tony Orr
Tony Orr

The Hamilton City Schools board met for 2½ hours in private session Thursday night to review an independent investigator’s report concerning Superintendent Tony Orr, who is on paid leave.

The board held a quick, special meeting this afternoon and then voted to go into private, executive session to hear a presentation on the report concerning allegations Orr violated board policy.

Steve Isgro, board president, declined comment about the report as did other members.

Orr was ordered on paid leave Feb. 5 by the board, whose members hired an independent investigator to look into the allegations.

Hamilton Board of Education members did say they soon will announce a previously unscheduled board meeting for 5 p.m. Monday, and that they intend to also go into executive session at that time to discuss personnel matters, which is allowed under Ohio law. However, any votes by the board must take place in a public meeting.

READ MORE: 5 things to know about the ongoing Hamilton superintendent leave story

“We don’t know until we read the report. We are probably going to have to study the report and make a decision from then, whether it be tonight or tomorrow or when,” said Isgro earlier Thursday.

The board’s next regularly scheduled meeting is March 27, though members can schedule an earlier meeting granted they provide the public at least 24-hour notice.

Board members declined further comment.

Besides an initial statement on Feb. 5 – in which Orr said he was unaware of the nature of the allegations but that “I am confident that I will be exonerated at the conclusion of this investigation” – the superintendent has not commented.

Isgro said in his Feb. 5 statement the allegations do not involve students.

This news outlet has checked numerous times with Hamilton police, who said there was not a criminal investigation of Orr.

Hamilton Schools’ Business Manager Larry Knapp has served as interim superintendent for the 10,000-student school system since Orr’s ordered departure.

In 2017, Orr had his contracted extended until 2020 by the board. His annual salary is $156,818.

He was hired in 2015.

Stay with this news outlet for new developments in this story.

Trending - Most Read Stories

Lebanon schools crack down on vaping, tobacco use

Published: Thursday, March 22, 2018 @ 1:53 PM

            The Lebanon City School district is cracking down on the use of e-cigarettes, better known as vaping. STAFF / LAWRENCE BUDD
The Lebanon City School district is cracking down on the use of e-cigarettes, better known as vaping. STAFF / LAWRENCE BUDD

The Lebanon City School District is cracking down on the use of e-cigarettes, better known as vaping.

“We are committed to the health and well-being of our students. Our administrators and counselors are available for anyone seeking assistance in discussing this matter further,” Superintendent Todd Yohey said in a press release.

According to the release, the Lebanon Student Code of Conduct already prohibited the possession, distribution, or use of vaping devices in school, on school property or at school events. Students found possessing, distributing, or using these devices are subject to discipline under the policy.

MORE: Growing concern about vaping by teens

Effective April 3, the punishment for violations will be:

First Violation

-Three-day out-of- school suspension.

-Violators will not be permitted to attend the next dance on the school calendar.

-Students and parents will be offered enrollment in a tobacco/smoking awareness class offered at school at no charge.

MORE: Parents weigh pros, cons of vaping

Second Violation

-Five-day out-of-school suspension.

-Violators not be permitted to attend any school dances for one year.

-Students and parents will be offered enrollment in a tobacco/smoking awareness class offered at school at no charge.

MORE: Cedarville researchers studying vaping liquids

Third Violation

-10-day suspension with recommendation for expulsion.

-Violators not be permitted to attend any school dances for remainder of high school career.

-Violator will be required to attend tobacco cessation classes at the expense of the student or parent before returning to school.

Violations are cumulative over a student’s career in each building.

The policy change, in response to increased use by students, was approved and adopted by the Lebanon City School District Board of Education on March 19.

MORE: Disguised vaping device popular with youths

“The liquid solutions that are used in these devices often contain various amounts of nicotine and other harmful chemicals. Vaping devices are also being used to dispense crystallized marijuana (THC). These devices may resemble a pen or a USB drive,” according to the press release issued Thursday by the district.

“While the law requires students to be at least 18 years of age to purchase or use vaping devices, many students are in possession of one. These devices are also being used to dispense THC in an odorless method,” the release also said.

Trending - Most Read Stories

2 Troy school superintendent finalists will meet with public

Published: Thursday, March 22, 2018 @ 11:52 AM

            Troy schools superintendent Eric Herman announced Jan. 25, 2018, that he will retire at the end of the school year. CONTRIBUTED
Troy schools superintendent Eric Herman announced Jan. 25, 2018, that he will retire at the end of the school year. CONTRIBUTED

TROY – Two finalists for superintendent have been selected by the Troy City Schools Board of Education.

Jeremy Miller, current district assistant superintendent, and Christopher Piper, superintendent of the Triad Local Schools, were selected from among 16 applicants and eight semi-finalists.

District staff and stakeholders were notified about the selections on Thursday by Jeff Price, the district’s treasurer and chief financial officer.

TRENDING: Feds: Postal worker on disability got $94,000, was in 35 motorcycle races

The public will have the opportunity to meet the finalists on April 10 for Miller and April 11 for Piper at 4:15 p.m. at the Troy Junior High School Library. The board of education will meet both days at 6:30 p.m. in a closed executive session to interview the candidates.

District Superintendent Eric Herman announced earlier this year he would retire at the end of July.

Doug Trostle, board of education president, said a new superintendent would be hired by the end of April.

Trending - Most Read Stories