Community reaction mixed after Madison Schools decides to arm staff

Parents and former Madison students expressed mixed feelings about the district’s decision Tuesday night.

But the Madison Local School District Board of Education was unanimous in its decision to approve a resolution to allow armed staff in the district.

Madison school board president Dave French said the safety of every child in Madison Twp. has to be the “district’s highest priority.”

While people agreed students must be kept safe, some don’t think arming staff and teachers is the right approach.

“More guns isn’t the answer,” said Alison Summers, who has two children, a third-grader and one entering kindergarten in the fall at Madison Schools.

She believes some teachers aren’t prepared to carry a gun.

This resolution is part of the district’s participation in the FASTER Saves Lives program, school officials said Tuesday.

The FASTER program — Faculty/Administrator Safety Training and Emergency Response — consists of a 26-hour training focused on armed response, crisis management, and emergency medical aid, the district said. Staff participation in the FASTER program will be voluntary.

“I hope our community understands that the FASTER program is so much more than just about arming staff in our schools,” French said in a statement. “The training that is part of the program will make our district more safe and our staff better prepared to handle an emergency situation.”

The FASTER program has trained more than 1,091 school teachers and staff members from 226 districts in 12 states, including staff from 76 of Ohio’s 88 counties, Madison officials said.

Sierra LeVangie, 29, a 2006 Madison graduate, said she hopes those in the program take the “necessary steps” to be properly trained.

“I have mixed feelings about it,” she said. “It’s a great idea to have more people to take care of the safety of our children.”

She’s agrees arming some teachers may be the right step to reduce the possibility of another shooting in the district.

“They have gone through a lot of steps since the incident,” she said, referring to the Madison school shooting more than two years ago. “This is another step to getting us to where they will be completely safe at schools.”

After graduating from Madison in 2017, Hannah Snelling is an elementary education major at University of Cincinnati. She compared arming teachers to giving waitresses guns in the aftermath of the deadly shooting this week at Waffle House in Tennessee.

“It’s ridiculous,” she said. “They don’t need it.”

A Madison Twp. mother of five boys, three who attend school in the district, said after the Columbine shooting “everything in our country shifted the way we think. That’s sad. That’s disheartening.”

But Jeri Lewis, whose sons are in the second, sixth and 10th grade, said she agreed with the board’s unanimous decision.

“That’s the world we are in today,” Lewis said. “It’s the only viable option. If we carry guns in airports and other locations to protect ourselves, it makes sense to carry them to protect our kids.”

During the school shooting two years ago, her oldest son was in the cafeteria. He crawled to the gymnasium.

“It was a war zone mentality,” she said of Feb. 29, 2016.

When told the board president said student safety must be the highest priority, Lewis said: “Absolutely.”

She applauded the school board and officials for the way they handled school security since the incident more than two years ago.

“They have had a lot of wisdom,” she said.

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