The one-time interest of Hamilton Schools officials in arming staffers — including some teachers — is no longer being considered.
That’s the word from the leader of the city schools and at least one member of the district’s governing board.
In response, Butler County’s top law officer said the district’s initial interest in arming some staffers was an unsuccessful ruse to persuade voters to support last month’s school security tax hike, which was widely voted down.
In July leadership of the 10,000-student school system said it was considering a plan for “the possible arming of school personnel for the purpose of a safer and secure school environment for everyone.”
The statement came after an extraordinary and highly public lobbying for armed staffers by Butler County Sheriff Richard Jones, who had just placed a billboard message downtown that called into question Hamilton school officials’ commitment to keeping schools safe from armed attacks.
Soon after, public meetings to garner their opinions on the proposal drew dozens of residents, some speaking out to school officials in support and opposition of the plan.
But later school officials modified their stance after the district joined four other school systems in forming a new taxing district and put a school security tax hike on the November ballot.
Hamilton Schools Superintendent Larry Knapp said before the tax vote the idea of arming some school staffers would be re-examined after the November school security tax vote.
The proposed tax hike in Hamilton, Fairfield, Monroe, Edgewood and New Miami was later widely defeated by voters in those school communities.
Knapp now says “it has not been discussed since the beginning of the levy campaign.”
“In light of the community’s previous unfavorable response to the arming of personnel, I would not recommend at this time to move forward with that proposal. Ultimately, it’s the board’s decision, but it has not been a topic of interest or conversation since the defeat of the levy,” said Knapp.
“It’s not a good match for our community and our community’s expectations for school security,” he said.
Hamilton school board member Tom Alf said he backs Knapp’s decision.
“I feel we need to follow Mr. Knapp outstanding guidance” on the issue, said Alf without expanding further on the subject.
But the four other members of Hamilton’s Board of Education did not reply to multiple emails from the Journal-News seeking their reactions to Knapp’s latest stance, or comments explaining his position.
Jones said he wasn’t surprised by Hamilton Schools’ backing off of its original plan.
“They did that (possible staffer arming) to get the (school security) levy passed. But now the election is over, they won’t,” said Jones.
The reversal, said Jones, is one of the reasons the city school leaders “have a trust issue with the public.”