Hamilton residents can sound off about arming school staffers

Hamilton residents will soon have a chance to sound off at an upcoming town hall meeting on the idea of school staffers having access to guns.

Hamilton Schools Superintendent Larry Knapp released an announcement Monday saying a July 18 meeting is designed to gather the public’s input — and that of school employees — on some major and controversial changes to security in the 10,000-student school system.

MORE: Hamilton Schools moving toward arming school staffers

The meeting is co-sponsored by Hamilton City Schools and Hamilton Police Department.

Last week, some residents spoke out against the district’s intention to allow teachers and staffers who volunteer —and who pass background checks, handgun certification and licensing — to have access to such weapons during the school day.

But Knapp wants to assure the public that “any decision to possibly arm civilian personnel in our schools will include a rigorous vetting process in collaboration and agreement with the Hamilton Police Department, a detailed background check, psychological evaluation and ongoing training.”

Hamilton school officials announced last week their intention to augment their already armed school security officers — supplied by Hamilton police — with additional personnel in school buildings who could access and operate a handgun should an armed attack take place.

“The district and board of education members also understand that a plan of security is never stagnant, but always a work in progress and that input from everyone is a priority,” Knapp said.

Hamilton City Schools is one of three Butler County school districts to have publicly announced their intentions to allow qualified school personnel to have access to firearms in the upcoming school year. Madison and Edgewood Schools are the other Butler County districts to make such an announcement.

“As the district continues to enhance our safety planning, we are committed to thoughtful and meaningful input as we work together to make our community safer and stronger,” Knapp said.

The district wants additional input from community members, parents and staff regarding the next steps with school safety. The town hall will include representatives from the Hamilton Police Department and Hamilton City Schools. It’s set for 7 p.m. at the Board of Education office at 533 Dayton Street.

“As with any plan involving safety and security, certain detailed components of the plan must be held confidential, as to maintain its overall integrity. For example, identifying who may or may not be armed would certainly be useful information to a perpetrator,” he said.

Butler County Sheriff Richard Jones — a long-time advocate for allowing qualified school staffers access to guns — met last week with Hamilton Police Chief Craig Buchiet and school officials regarding such a security change.

Days earlier Jones had unveiled a billboard in downtown Hamilton questioning the school board’s emphasis on school safety.

Knapp emphasized any security plan is “never stagnant, but always a work in progress and that input from everyone is a priority.”

Those unable to attend the town hall meeting may still send ideas and suggestions via email to lknapp@hcsdoh.org, he said. Include in the subject line the phrase “Safety and Security.”

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