Butler County lawmaker says bill allowing guns on school property needed more after Ohio Supreme Court ruling

A state representative from Butler County has sponsored legislation that he says would resolve uncertainties about arming school staffers on district property.

The Ohio Supreme Court on Wednesday ruled that if school staff and teachers are armed by their districts in Ohio, they will need the same level of training that law enforcement officers. The decision came from a lawsuit filed by a group of parents who 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, the majority of the justices agreed state law requires advanced training before staff can carry concealed weapons on campus.

But the decision also said more clarity is needed by the Ohio legislature.

Questions of arming staff and teachers, and the required training “are outside this court’s purview,” wrote Ohio Supreme Court Chief Justice Maureen O’Connor. She wrote that it’s “a fundamental principle of the separation of powers” that the legislative branch of government makes laws, citing cases from 2002 and 2007.

“As this court may neither establish policy nor second-guess the General Assembly’s policy choices, such arguments are more appropriately directed to the General Assembly,” O’Connor wrote, citing a 2008 case.

Hall, R-Madison Twp., said he was “very disappointed” in the high court’s decision.

“This ruling only underscores the critical and urgent need to get House Bill 99 signed into law,” he said. “This permissive legislation gives school boards the ability to make enhanced school safety measures by determining additional training requirements, beyond concealed carry permit training, for arming teachers and staff if they chose to do so.”

Hall says his bill would allow teachers and school staff to carry guns on school property, inside buildings or at school events if they have the permission of the school board, are licensed to carry a concealed weapon, and meet whatever additional standards imposed by the respective school board.

“The Ohio General Assembly has a responsibility to give our school districts the option to protect their students and staff by embracing local control and establishing appropriate baseline training requirements for educators to carry a firearm,” Hall said.

Rachel Bloomekatz, one of the attorneys representing Madison school parents, was at the April 15 hearing for the bill where some who wanted to testify were not able to. More than 130 people voiced opposition to HB 99. Only four people, including Hall and the Buckeye Firearms Association, have testified in support of the bill.

“There has not been full public debate on this issue,” she said. “This is something parents across Ohio are concerned about. We all want to keep our kids safe in school. So if any decisions are going to be made by the legislature, they should be based on extensive research, discussion with experts and not any decisions made behind closed doors.”

Butler County Democratic Party Executive Chairman Brian Hester said training needs to be significantly more than what the eight hours of concealed carry classes offer. He also believes Attorney General Dave Yost should be leading the legislative debate on this topic. Yost had supported the Madison school district’s position.

“If we’re expecting teachers to act as armed law enforcement people to respond to a dangerous situation, then it is in their best interest, and the kids’ best interest, and everybody’s best interest that they have the training for that.”

Hester said the discussion should be about Ohio’s job losses and not a “non-existent problem.”

The Ohio Department of Job and Family Services reported a decline of nearly 15,000 jobs in Ohio during May while the country gained jobs. Nearly 560,000 jobs were added nationwide in May, according to the U.S. Labor Department.