STOW: For the second consecutive year, more than 60 active or retired Stow and Munroe Falls police officers will be authorized to carry a gun while off duty on school property.
At its regular meeting Monday, the Stow-Munroe Falls Board of Education unanimously approved a resolution permitting the officers to carry any necessary law-enforcement equipment, including firearms.
Superintendent Russ Jones said that passing the resolution was a “sound decision” and could be a deterrent to violence in school. The Stow and Munroe Falls police departments recommended the proposal, he said.
Stow Police Chief Louis Dirker said the Ohio Revised Code permits school boards to adopt legislation allowing off-duty police to carry concealed weapons on school grounds and at school functions. He brought the item to the attention of Jones.
Munroe Falls Police Chief Rick Myers said only active-duty officers or officers who retired in good standing with the department would be permitted to carry a firearm on school property while off-duty. The school board will receive a list of authorized officers.
“If anyone should be carrying a weapon in a school zone, I think it should be an officer instead of a teacher,” Dirker said. “These people have been handling weapons their whole career. Why disregard them?
“It just made sense to present this to the school board and let them know that this is another option that you have available,” the Stow chief said. “It’s nice to know that someone is there who is capable and knowledgeable and knows how to respond to these kinds of situations.”
Jones said he has been pursuing increased security measures for district schools since the December 2012 tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Conn.
“That tragedy changed education,” Jones said of the mass shooting that took 26 lives. “Those were babies that were killed.”
The day after that incident, he was on the phone with city officials and the police departments to see what added security measures could be implemented in the district.
“Keeping our children safe is our priority,” Jones said. “If there is an emergency, we will have a trained person to assist us in the event that we don’t have an officer there already.”
Myers also believes this arrangement is a logical choice.
“What we figured is since [officers] are probably armed anyway, it’s just an additional layer of security,” he said. “Police officers have been screened, they go through a battery of tests to even become a police officer. These are people that we entrust every day with our safety.”
Board member Pat Matthews said she was hesitant to approve the request.
“This is a hard one for me because I don’t like to see guns in a school building,” Matthews said.
Board member Gerry Bettio also had mixed emotions on passing the resolution.
“I think it is for the betterment of everybody,” she said in a phone interview Tuesday. “I believe that we should provide the safety for our human population, but I am hoping that the people in charge make them qualified.”
Bettio called it a shame that the district had to resort to this measure.