Authorization under this policy requires substantial training and a rigorous review, drug screens, and mental health examinations, she wrote in an email to the Journal-News.
She said the policy is an “additional safety measure” designed to protect students and staff from harm.
“The district’s highest priority is the safety of every child in our community,” she wrote.
The plaintiffs, five parents with 12 children in district schools, are represented by attorneys from Everytown for Gun Safety Support Fund and Gupta Wessler PLLC.
“If school boards are going to authorize teachers or other staff to carry deadly weapons at school, they must have the extensive training that is specified in Ohio law. The Board is violating that requirement. And, in doing so, it’s putting our plaintiffs’ kids — and all Madison kids — at risk,” Rachel Bloomekatz, a Columbus-based attorney with Gupta Wessler PLLC, said in a news release.
The 137-page lawsuit notes the school district requires staff who want to carry guns complete a 26-hour training course. The lawsuit acknowledges the school board has discretion to allow armed staff, but must follow the law.
“Ohio law requires a school employee that goes ‘armed while on duty’ to have first completed a ‘basic peace officer training’ program or have 20 years experience serving as a peace officer. That training is over 700 hours,” the lawsuit notes.
The Gabbards have considered removing their two children, ages 8 and 10, from the school district but the lawsuit said they mainly moved to Middletown eight years ago because of Madison Schools.
“Even well-trained officers miss their targets under stress and Ms. Gabbard fears that her children could be the innocent bystanders tragically wounded (or worse) when insufficiently trained teachers attempt to help in a crisis (or perceived crisis),” the lawsuit reads. “The increased risk of harm to her children gives her extreme distress and every day that she drops off her children at school she wonders if she has made the wrong choice.”
The parents are asking the court to prohibit the district from allowing insufficiently trained armed staff, force the release of public records and award costs, expenses, statutory damages and attorneys fees.
In 2016, Madison Senior/Junior High School saw an eighth-grader fire a gun wounding three classmates.