Ohio schools will receive $100 million in total to purchase security equipment as part of the next round of K-12 School Safety Grants, Governor Mike DeWine (R) wrote to superintendents on Friday.
The allocations, which come as a part of the state’s capital budget bill that DeWine signed into law last week, will go toward purchases such as outdoor lighting, facility-mapping software, school radio systems, door-locking technology and visitor badge systems. The Ohio School Safety Center in Columbus is now drafting the application for schools to access this money and expects to soon start the application process.
In the wake of the Robb Elementary School shooting in Uvalde, Texas, last month, the governor outlined a variety of other state programs Buckeye State school districts can implement to improve safety.
He advised that schools can arrange for the Safety Center to perform facility vulnerability assessments and develop emergency response protocols. He also suggested that middle and high schools form threat-assessment teams to identify and manage any threatening student behavior before violence occurs; Ohio’s Educational Service Centers will begin offering training for this purpose in August.
“I strongly encourage you to utilize the existing and additional resources we are providing through grant funding, training, and the expertise of the Ohio School Safety Center,” DeWine told the superintendents. “We are here to help you and remain dedicated to doing all we can to be a resource to you, our teachers, and other school staff.”
He further noted that his administration has thus far spent $1.2 billion on youths’ psychological well-being via the Student Wellness and Success Fund, and schools have used those expenditures to create over 1,300 mental health programs.
The governor’s letter additionally explained at length the state’s new policy making it easier for willing school faculty and staff to carry handguns. He emphasized that each school has the choice to either let school employees be armed or to bar the practice.
“It is optional,” he wrote. (Emphasis added in the original letter.) It is one of many tools that you can choose based on your unique school situation. Other tools, such as a school safety officer, may serve your school better.” (Emphasis added in the original letter.)
Before the last year, the state permitted schools to allow teachers and other school personnel to arm themselves irrespective of whether they had firearms training. The state supreme court, however, narrowly ruled in Gabbard v. Madison Local School District Board of Education that any person who is armed on school property must have the same amount of training as a law-enforcement officer (i.e., over 700 hours).
Schools that wanted to permit employees to carry guns requested that legislators adjust the law – as the court said they could — to reduce the required amount of training to 24 hours. DeWine signed legislation to that effect earlier this month.
“I did not want to deny schools this option and wanted to make sure that if a school chooses this option that all training hours are directly relevant to situations that could occur in schools,” he wrote. “However, I have made it clear that, in my opinion, the much preferred option is to have a school resource officer in each school building.”
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Bradley Vasoli is managing editor of The Ohio Star. Follow Brad on Twitter at @BVasoli. Email tips to [email protected].
Photo “Mike DeWine” by Governor Mike DeWine. Background Photo “Classroom” by Arthur Krijgsman.