by J.D. Davidson
Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine, in a letter to school superintendents around the state, called arming teachers in classrooms a serious local decision that remains optional after he signed a new law that reduces training needed for guns in schools.
DeWine, who recently signed House Bill 99, also told school leaders he would rather districts use school resource officers than armed teachers.
“I signed this bill because we know some schools want to do this and know that each school situation is different,” the letter reads. “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. 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.”
A year ago, the Ohio Supreme Court ruled teachers or other non-security personnel must complete the equivalent of Ohio peace officer training to be able to carry a gun in a school. The law reduced a month of training to 24 hours, with eight hours of continuing training each year.
School districts have the option of requiring more training, which the state will develop in six-hour blocks, DeWine said in the letter.
Rep. Thomas Hall, R-Madison Township, originally introduced HB99 after his father, serving as Madison High School resource officer, chased a shooter from the school in 2016.
The law also establishes the Ohio School Safety Center and the Ohio Mobile Training Team under the Department of Public Safety.
The Ohio School Safety Center helps schools develop and implement emergency management plans and assist schools with security. The Ohio Mobile Training Team will consist of one chief mobile training officer and 16 regional officers assigned to locations around the state. They must be peace officers or veterans.
House Democrats said the bill signing endangers children, and the signing came on the same day the state’s new permitless concealed carry law went into effect.
“Just last month, our nation was rocked by tragedy after experiencing two horrific mass shootings in the span of a week,” said House Minority Leader Allison Russo, D-Upper Arlington. “Innocent children and people were murdered. But today, it’s business as usual for Statehouse Republicans who continue to ignore Ohioans’ cries for common sense gun safety measures that will keep our communities safe. Make no mistake, these tragedies will continue to occur until Republicans decide to value the lives of children, families and law enforcement more than they value the approval of the gun lobby.”
DeWine also used the letter to raise awareness about what he called school safety services and resources offered by the state, including funding for mental health programs and training, grants for school safety, and security upgrades and new behavioral threat assessment training for educators.
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An Ohio native, J.D. Davidson is a veteran journalist with more than 30 years of experience in newspapers in Ohio, Georgia, Alabama and Texas. He has served as a reporter, editor, managing editor and publisher. Davidson is regional editor for The Center Square.