Judge Charles Pater talks about Madison Schools gun case

Madison school guns lawsuit: Both sides seeking to keep some information sealed

The Madison schools parents who sued the district over its concealed weapons policy have taken Butler County Common Pleas Judge Charles Pater’s decision against them to the the 12th District Court of Appeals. The actual appeal hasn’t been filed yet, but the parties filed a joint motion asking the court if they can file two sets of documents in the case, one with sensitive information redacted for the public and full briefs for the court’s eyes only.

One of the parents’ attorneys, Rachel Bloomekatz, said because the case is still open, with a protective order intact, they needed to ask the 12th District for the sealing.

“We filed a joint motion with the board to file some minor parts of the brief under seal in order to comply with the Court of Common Pleas’ protective order while the appeal is pending,” she said.

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

RELATED: Judge rules teachers don’t need police-level training to carry guns in Madison schools

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.

Pater ruled in February school personnel do not need to be trained as peace officers.

“The plaintiff’s proposed reading of the statute is untenable based upon the context of the statute,” Pater wrote in his decision. “The phrase at issue, ‘a position in which such person goes armed while on duty’ in context, must refer to ‘persons otherwise privately employed in a police capacity.’ … Clearly teachers, administrators, administrative assistants and custodians, along with most, if not all, other school employees are not employed by educational institutions in such capacity, unlike someone such as a school resource officer who is.”

Bloomekatz and co-counsel from Everytown Law in New York are appealing two of Pater’s rulings.

“The plain text of the relevant law is clear,” Bloomekatz said after announcing the parents would appeal Pater’s decision. “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. Whatever your views on the policy, the board must follow state law and that is why we’re appealing.”

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Part of the lawsuit also entailed the release of the some of the concealed carry policies and procedures from the public. The parent’s attorneys are also appealing a ruling that gave the school district permission to shield some records, like psychological evaluations of armed staff.

“The school district maintains that information about the gun policy is confidential information that if released “would compromise the safety of students, staff and others on the property of Madison Local School District and compromise the school emergency management plan,” the school district wrote in court documents.

The school district is part of another lawsuit with parents who say they district has muzzled free speech over the armed staff issue. The federal judge is expected to rule any day on a preliminary injunction in that case.

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