Armed school staff: Butler County district’s policy goes before Ohio Supreme Court

Armed school staff: Butler County district’s policy goes before Ohio Supreme Court
A local school district's policy arming school staff will be debated before the Ohio Supreme Court Tuesday.

CINCINNATI (FOX19) - How much training teachers and other school staff must undergo before being permitted to carry guns into classrooms at a southwestern Ohio district will be the focus of oral arguments before the Ohio Supreme Court Tuesday.

Ohio law permits school boards to decide whether to allow teachers and other staff to carry guns into school buildings. But state lawmakers have mandated that they be well-trained with 728 hours first.

Madison City Schools in Butler County approved a policy allowing armed staff with less than 30 hours training. The board passed its controversial policy in the wake of a shooting at one of its schools in 2016.

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The decision spawned two lawsuits: One that is culminating in Tuesday’s debate before the state’s top court.

The plaintiffs are Erin Gabbard, Aimee Robson, Dallas Robson, Benjamin Tobey and Benjamin Adams, on behalf of themselves and their children.

They are represented by Gupta Wessler LLC of Columbus, Ohio and Everytown for Gun Safety Support Fund.

The now-retired Butler County Common Pleas Court Judge Charles Pater previously ruled 26 hours of training required in the district’s policy was enough for school staff.

An Ohio appeals court disagreed and ordered the school district to stop arming teachers without much more training.

The Ohio Supreme Court lifted the ban and allowed staff to carry weapons while the case is pending.

The second lawsuit resulted in a judge halting Madison’s program altogether.

This case is separate and with a different group of parents and attorneys than the first lawsuit. Everytown is not involved in this litigation.

In a written decision released Monday, Butler County Common Pleas Court Judge Greg Stephens invalidated Madison’s armed staff program.

He determined the school board violated open meetings laws when it held private meetings to authorize individuals to carry guns.

The judge said the district cannot reinstate its program unless open meetings laws are properly followed.

Reached for comment Monday, Madison Superintendent Lisa Tuttle-Huff said that while the district doesn’t agree with the judge’s decision, they will change their policy to comply with his order and plan to resume arming staff once that is done.

She provided the following statement:

“The number one priority since adopting the Firearms Authorization Policy has been to protect Madison students and staff. The District has been more transparent and sought more input from the Madison community than nearly every school in the State of Ohio that has armed staff members. Yet, a Butler County judge recently found that the Board’s desire to protect its students and staff—and keep confidential critical elements of its Firearms Authorization Policy—failed to adhere with the Open Meetings Act. While we disagree with that decision, the Board believes it complied with the law and does not regret the steps it took to protect Madison students. This is especially true when the District was more transparent about its decision to arm staff members than hundreds of other Ohio school districts that have enacted similar policies.

“We can confirm that in light of this ruling, the District will be changing the procedure for approving individuals. The District does intend to resume the program, but the details of doing so are not yet in place. Rest assured that the resumption of the program will be consistent with the decision from the Court.”

Other school districts in the Tri-State have passed similar rules allowing teachers to be armed, including Blanchester schools in Clinton County and Williamsburg ones in Clermont County.

One of the biggest advocates for Madison’s armed staff policy is Butler County Sheriff Richard Jones.

He said he was disappointed, but not surprised but the judge’s decision.

He said he hopes the legalities are resolved quickly so the program can be reinstated before another tragedy occurs.

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