Judge Charles Pater talks about Madison Schools gun case

EXCLUSIVE: Docs in Madison schools gun lawsuit describe firearms training teachers received

Court documents and information discussed during a hearing this week reveal there are armed staffers in the Madison schools now and they have received training in defensive tactics and medical training in active shooter incidents.

Since Common Pleas Judge Charles Pater never issued an order to pause the already approved gun program while the lawsuit is pending, two teachers and an administrator went through training in June and presumably have been armed at school. The parents who sued the school district asked Pater to issue a temporary injunction temporarily halting the program, but he never did.

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A statement the Journal-News received from the superintendent indicates the school board has authorized 10 people to carry guns in school.

“The policy is currently in effect,” Lisa Tuttle-Huff wrote. “And as the policy and the authorization letter make clear, simply because an individual is authorized to carry on school grounds doesn’t mean that they are required to do so — it is entirely a voluntary decision left to the individual.”

A group of parents sued the Board of Education and superintendent in September 2018, alleging the board’s April resolution authorizing armed staff in schools violates an Ohio law requiring that armed school employees be trained and certified as peace officers. The gun program came about after a school shooting there three years ago when four students were injured by a classmate.

The crux of the lawsuit that will soon be decided is whether school staff who are authorized to carry concealed weapons must have 700-plus hours of training or 27 as provided in the policy.

According to a motion filed by the Buckeye Firearms Foundation asking to intervene in the case — the judge denied the request — they provided the 27-hour training.

“Certain teachers and staff members of the Madison Local Schools have been approved by their board of education and have participated in the FASTER program,” the motion reads. “Participation in the program has provided educators practical violence response training, including response with handguns and to provide emergency first aide to victims of violence.”

But during the hearing James Miller, one of the parents’ attorneys, read from transcripts of depositions taken of one “John Doe” who went through the training, who described a more aggressive approach.

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“In FASTER training you’re taught to find an active shooter, so you go into a shoot house where there is a shooting taking place, and you have to be able to find the shooter, and engage the shooter and stop the threat while clearing the rooms along the way,” Miller read from the deposition.

However, the district’s attorney Brodi Conover said while the training included those aspects everyone in the schools district, including those in the gun program have been instructed to only use the passive ALICE (Alert, Lockdown, Inform, Counter, Evacuate) approach.

The parents’ attorneys have been fighting throughout the case to get information about the program released, including facts like the psychological tests performed on those individuals and the policy itself. They always agreed the identities of the armed staffers should be kept secret.

Pater issued a ruling last week that shields the identities and HIPPA protected evaluations but said since much of the gun policy has already been released in a newsletter it can’t be shielded.

During the hearing Conover reiterated why shielding the identities is crucial.

“One board member specifically said that’s the beauty of the policy, you never know if that staff member is carrying or not and that provides a deterrent to a would be killer that comes into a school,” Conover said. “Because they don’t know which ones might be doing it or if they are actually doing it.”

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