Rather than take a broad look at school security, the Ohio House recently passed a misguided bill to make it easier for districts to arm teachers. Under current law, such decisions are in the hands of local officials. State education officials and the state attorney general don’t keep track of how many are armed.
The bill, co-sponsored by state Rep. Kristina Roegner, a Hudson Republican, would allow districts to decide behind closed doors about arming teachers. It would absolve schools and educators from civil action. Information about armed educators in school safety plans filed with the attorney general would be optional.
Training would be required, which is being developed independently by the Ohio Police Officer Training Academy, but there would be no advance psychological screening. That would take place after a shooting event.
It is up to members of the state Senate to ask far tougher questions, taking into account opposition to the bill from the Fraternal Order of Police, the Ohio Association of Chiefs of Police and the Ohio Federation of Teachers. Don’t police departments and parents deserve to know who is armed and why the decision was made?
State Sen. Frank LaRose, a Copley Township Republican who has held hearings on school safety, correctly weighs the “heavy responsibility” of carrying a weapon. The former Green Beret notes even highly trained shooters can make deadly mistakes, let alone teachers after a course at the Police Officer Training Academy. Potential downsides include accidents, as happened recently at Field High School when a gun being cleaned by a Brimfield Township officer discharged during school hours, or the risk that a firearm could fall into the wrong hands.
In the wake of school shooting incidents, among them the Chardon High School shooting in 2012, it should be apparent, sadly, that no security plan can work 100 percent of the time, even one with armed teachers. More sensible steps can be taken, such as better coordination between schools and law enforcement, better training for teachers in recognizing psychological problems and better screening and treatment for young people with severe mental illness.