Hamilton public meeting question: To arm or not arm school staffers

Arming school staffers – the summer’s most discussed school topic throughout Butler County school systems — will next be the focus of a public town hall meeting tonight in Hamilton.

The public forum is co-sponsored by Hamilton City Police and comes in the wake of school officials’ recent announcement they are considering arming some school teachers and staffers as part of an overall upgrade of security measures.

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Prompted in large part by school shooting massacres, which killed dozens of students and staffers in Florida and Texas high schools last school year, the traditional slow down for local schools during the summer has been replaced with a sense of urgency.

And for good reason, said Larry Knapp, superintendent of the 10,000-student.

Knapp hopes the public’s concerns and ideas for improving school security will be shared with school officials and Hamilton Police Craig Bucheit at the 7 p.m. meeting at Hamilton Schools’ Central Office at 533 Dayton St.

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Officials look “to continue to gather our community’s input into the possible arming of school personnel for the purpose of a safer and secure school environment for everyone,” said Knapp.

“So far we have receive input from parents, students, school staff members, and business leaders and all of this information will be shared with the Board of Education so they can make an informed decision with this proposal,” said Knapp.

“With this meeting we hope to gather more information from district residents on Wednesday night, as we all work together with local, county, and state level safety and security responders and officials to improve our district’s comprehensive safety plan,” he said.

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Hamilton Police Chief Craig Bucheit said “this is a very important issue.”

Bucheit, who will attend the meeting, said the event represents how the city “is coming together as a community to figure out how to provide the best safety and security for our schools.”

Currently Hamilton Schools use armed school resource officers at its schools as do all other school districts in the county.

Some contend however, those officers may not be enough or may not be stationed throughout a school building where they can react quickly in case of an armed attack.

Among those pushing aggressively for allowing school staffers who volunteer — and are properly trained and vetted — to have access to firearms has been Butler County Sheriff Richard Jones.

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Jones has been sharply critical of Hamilton’s past security plans and last month took the extraordinary step of using private money to post a billboard downtown questioning the school board’s priorities toward keeping schools safe.

In response, Hamilton school officials announced they are now considering arming some school employees who qualify for being armed.

Moreover, about half of Butler County’s 10 school districts are moving closer to putting a new type of school levy now allowed by Ohio law on the fall ballot for funding school security.

Hamilton Schools are among those districts, and Knapp said Wednesday evening’s meeting will also gather public input on how to proceed should that levy win voter approval.

“The information gathered will also help us in allocating and prioritizing our resources if we are fortunate enough to garner the community’s support of the countywide school safety levy being decided at the November election,” he said.

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