Madison’s arming of school staffers: 8 new details we learned from court documents

Depositions taken during the lawsuit with the three armed staff at the Madison Schools detail the level of training they received and their thoughts about how society has reached a point where kids aren’t always safe in their classrooms.

The court challenge came in response to a gun policy that was passed about a year ago in response to a 2016 shooting at Madison Jr./Sr. High School, where a student injured four of his classmates.

A group of parents sued the district last September seeking an injunction blocking the district from arming teachers and other staff without the training required of law enforcement officials — 728 hours versus the 26 hours the school has in its policy — and a court order requiring disclosure of policies and procedures for arming staff.

The Journal-News investigated school security in Butler County and the region for a special report that published in the Sunday newspaper. Click here to view the front page from Sunday, and here's a look at what the Journal-News found: 
• Court docs detail Madison's armed staffer program, but one parent is worried about 'inadequate training'
• Offense or defense? The growing fight over fortifying school security
• How 5 area districts are changing to improve their staffing and methods

What did we learn about the training two teachers and one administrator took?

The three people who are now authorized to carry guns in school took 27 hours of Faculty/Administrator Safety Training and Emergency Response (FASTER) training last summer. They all said the training gave them experience in hunting down an assailant.

But they also testified they were verbally instructed by the district — this part of the policy is not in writing — not to pursue suspects but instead follow the board’s defensive policy.

In the marksmanship portion of the training the staffers had to hit their target 26 out of 28 times to be certified. One John Doe hit 26 of 28 and one failed the qualification twice that weekend but later qualified.

Why did one of them have to take the target shooting certification later?

A person referenced as John Doe No. 3, in a deposition, said: “Their standards are actually tougher than the actual police academy standards, and the first time I was off by one shot. And I would say the reason why, it was about a hundred degrees that day, I was dehydrated, had been there all day, and I was a little overconfident in my skills and I went through the course too fast. And that’s what the trainers told me, if you slowed down, you would have done it. Because they actually told me that I was one of the better shooters the whole week there. So I went to the range a couple times, practiced, and then came back and had a perfect score.”

In case of an active shooting incident they were told …

One of those deposed said: “Police officers were training the course and they basically trained us that that deadly force is used and returned with deadly force. They even trained us, you know, if you’ve shot the bad guy, he’s down, we’re not murderers, we’re not going to finish him off. Basically, we’re there to, you know, if they’re still firing, then, yes, we’re still going to keep shooting. But once you shot, the bad guy’s down, we secure the area, we make sure the bad guy can’t hurt anybody else, we attend to other kids first, and then, if possible, we try and help the bad guy too…

“So if an active shooter comes into my room, guns are blazing, shooting, we obviously stop that threat. Once that threat has been stopped, we make sure — kick the gun away, cover it with a trash can, make sure any of the students can’t pick up that gun.

“They trained us how that — you know, we don’t know how the bad guy may have modified that gun. So just touching it, you don’t want it to go off. So that’s why we put it under a trash can, keep it out of the way of the kids, make sure the door is locked in case there’s other bad guys involved. That’s what I mean by securing the area.”

What John Doe No. 3 said about school shootings:

“I feel like the world is just slowly getting worse and worse. And whether it’s mental illness or violent video games, movies, I don’t know, but it is a problem and I don’t see the problem going away. So I think it’s just been a slow, continual just worsening of the situation.”

John Doe No. 1 is frustrated by the whole school safety issue:

“In general, the frustration of our — that there are people who believe that it’s sufficient to have a sticker on your door that says ‘No guns allowed’ and then people will follow that… Because a sticker doesn’t stop a person from bringing a weapon into the school … I’m a teacher and I live moment to moment. I’m teaching my students and I realize the vulnerability and I have read the stories of the shootings that have happened in our country and you lose sleep over it sometimes realizing that there’s nothing I can do.”

School board President David French on why the board decided to arm teachers:

Given the remote location of the schools, the board needed more protection options. He said officials added another school resource officer after the shooting, but that day proved how vulnerable the staff and students are.

“These teachers put their lives on the line. We had one teacher, didn’t know what was going on, he locked his doors. He didn’t know if it was a group of armed people or what,” French testified. “He’s a coach. He passed out his duffel bags. Said kids, if someone comes through this door, I’ll protect you at all cost. And he gave them baseball bats. That’s all he had in (his) control. That’s it.”

The parents who sued the district still not satisfied with the training:

“I think we all felt helpless three years ago and we don’t want to feel that way again, no one on either side of this,” Erin Gabbard told the Journal-News. “I think we can’t ignore the real safety risks that come with bringing guns into the classroom with such inadequate training.

“I think our kids, and our staff and the parents in this district deserve a more comprehensive, thorough and thoughtful policy.”

The superintendent responds to criticism:

“The Madison Board, at all times, has prioritized the safety of its students and staff. In enacting its resolution to arm staff and its subsequent Firearms Authorization Policy, the board has enacted policies it believes will do exactly that: keep the district’s students and staff safe,” Superintendent Lisa Tuttle-Huff told the Journal-News. “Judge Pater upheld that policy as lawful. The Madison community has overwhelmingly supported that decision. The Madison board will continue to do what it believes will keep its students, staff, and community safe.”

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