Supreme Court decision on guns in schools having ripple effect on area policies

COLUMBUS — The Ohio Supreme Court upheld a decision that prohibits teachers, administrators and staff members from carrying guns while they are on duty, unless they have basic peace officer training or have had 20 years experience as a peace officer.

The 4-3 decision came down Wednesday and strikes down a 2018 Madison Local School Board of Educations “firearm authorization policy.” That policy would have allowed up to 10 employees with CCW permits and had met other training requirements to carry concealed weapons in a school safety zone, according to the Supreme Court.

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The policy was developed after the 2016 shooting at Madison Junior-Senior High School that wounded four students.

Chief Justice Maureen O’Connor sided with the majority and said a school employee must meet the training-or-experience requirements that apply to those persons employed by schools as special police officers or security guards if the employee “goes armed” during the time the employee is performing job duties, whatever those duties might be, according to the Supreme Court.

Madison Local Schools said the district’s primary concern has been and will continue to be the safety of its students regardless of today’s decision.

“We are disappointed in the split decision issued by the Ohio Supreme Court. We are pleased, however, that Justice Kennedy, Justice Fischer, and Justice DeWine, the Governor (when he was Attorney General), and the current Attorney General agreed that the Madison Local Schools’ Board of Education policy was lawful,” said Dave French, President of Madison Local Schools. “While this policy has received a substantial amount of attention, it is just one of the many steps that the District has taken to ensure student safety. We are considering and exploring all of our options moving forward, and hope the Ohio General Assembly considers taking action to correct this decision.”

Several other districts also created new gun programs around the time of the Madison Local Schools shooting, including Sidney schools.

An estimated 30 Ohio school districts, including Sidney City Schools, Mad River Local Schools and Newton Local Schools, include in their security plans guns that are locked in safes, ready to be used by trained staff in case an active shooter enters school grounds.

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“The Newton Board of Education and I are disappointed in the decision of the Ohio Supreme Court in regards to our inability to now provide additional protection for our students and staff by utilizing a trained and armed (by way of secured gun safes) support staff. We will continue to utilize a full time armed School Resource Officer who more than meets the minimum requirements to be armed as stipulated in the rendered decision. Newton will immediately remove the secured weapons from all buildings to comply with this decision and as advised by our district legal counsel,” said Newton Local Schools Superintendent Pat McBride.

Sidney’s superintendent said it plans to meet with the Shelby County Sheriff’s Office and counsel next week to discuss Wednesday’s developments.