Ohio Supreme Court rules armed teachers must have peace officer-level training in Madison schools case

The Madison Schools parents who sued the district over armed staff are relieved the Ohio Supreme Court ruled extensive peace officer training is required, a decision that encompasses every school district statewide.

A group of parents sued Madison Schools in September 2018 seeking an injunction blocking the district from allowing teachers and other staff to carry guns without the training required of law enforcement officials — 728 hours versus the 24 hours the school has in its policy.

In a 4-3 decision issued this morning, the majority of the justices agreed state law requires advanced training before staff can carry concealed weapons on campus.

Erin Gabbard, one of the parents who challenged the policy, said she is relieved the high court ruled in favor of the more robust training.

“Like any parents, we just want our kids to be safe,” Gabbard said. “The Madison school board armed minimally trained staff, one of whom even failed the accuracy test multiple times. Once this ruling is implemented, parents will at least know that the teachers who carry firearms in our schools are properly trained, as required by state law.”

A statement from Madison Schools says they are disappointed by the “split decision” on the high court but pleased three justices and the state attorney general believe their policies are lawful.

“The board has always done, and will continue to do, what is in the best interest of our community. Our primary concern has been and continues to be the safety of our students, and what works for our community may not work for others,” said the statement from board President Dave French. “While this policy has received a substantial amount of attention, it is just one of the many steps that the district has taken to ensure student safety. We are considering all of our options moving forward, and hope the Ohio General Assembly considers taking action to correct this decision.”

Chief Justice Maureen O’Connor wrote the opinion citing sections of the Ohio Revised Code that requires peace officer training, saying a certain provision “does not provide schools with a mechanism to circumvent that requirement. Because the board’s April 2018 resolution purports to authorize certain school employees to go armed while on duty without also requiring that those employees satisfy the training-or-experience requirement (violates state law).”

The Madison school board enacted a policy two years after a 2016 school shooting in the district. It allows 10 staffers to carry weapons on campus, if they have 24-hour FASTER (Faculty/Administrator Safety Training and Emergency Response) gun safety training, the eight-hour training to obtain a concealed carry license and other requirements.

Retired Common Pleas Court Judge Charles Pater previously ruled teachers and other staff are not peace officers and therefore do not require peace officer levels of training. The Twelfth District Court of Appeals disagreed and ordered the school district to stop the program without much more involved training. The school district appealed to the Ohio Supreme Court last year.

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