A school safety bill beginning to make its way through the Ohio House has triggered concerns that it would encourage more school districts to arm teachers and other staff members. Last week, the Fraternal Order of Police warned about such a result, arguing persuasively that the job of responding to violence should be left to trained and experienced police officers.
House Bill 8, still being drafted, could get its first hearing as early as the end of the month. Sponsored by Republicans Kristina Roegner of Hudson and Stephanie Kunze of Hilliard, the bill is expected to make changes to state law that already allows school boards much room in permitting individuals to have a weapon in school.
A National Rifle Association task force recently recommended a training program for arming school personnel. Roegner has indicated support for a closer working relationship between school districts and local law enforcement. Unfortunately, that still may include collaboration on training requirements for teachers and other staff members to have access to a weapon in school.
A few districts have already acted. In Orrville, the school board has allowed a teacher who is also a Lawrence Township police officer to carry a concealed firearm in the high school. In Montpelier, a small district in Northwest Ohio, the board has decided to train and arm four janitors.
The better course would be to end completely the practice of arming school personnel, out of safety and liability concerns. As Mike Weinman, the director of government affairs for the FOP of Ohio, pointed out, the law allowing some to carry a weapon into a school originally was intended to appease the gun lobby about a need to accommodate those with a concealed-carry permit when picking up children at school.
In stressful situations, even the best-trained police officers can be put to a severe test. Instead of encouraging teachers, janitors and others with less training and experience to carry weapons, the legislature would do better to provide districts with funds for school resource officers, trained police officers who also would work with students on other safety issues. Districts need help, too, with emergency planning and for school psychologists and counselors to work with troubled students.