No members of the public spoke out against the measure at a recent school board meeting, board President Larry Martin said.
A rural school district in Ohio is drawing attention with its plans to arm a handful of its non-teaching employees with handguns this year—perhaps even janitors.
Four employees in the Montpelier schools have agreed to take a weapons training course and carry their own guns inside the district’s one building, which houses 1,000 students in kindergarten through 12th grade, school officials said.
“It’s kind of a sign of the times,” Superintendent Jamie Grime said Jan. 11.
The Toledo Blade reported that the employees were janitors, but school officials would not confirm that to The Associated Press, saying only that they are employees who don’t have direct supervision over the students in the northwest Ohio district.
The four employees who will carry guns all volunteered to take part, Grime said. The school plans to pay for them to attend a two-day training course.
(Next page: Reaction to the move)
“Putting a firearm in a school is a huge step,” Grime said. “We’re going to do it properly. These people need the proper training.”
The move comes as districts and lawmakers across the nation weigh how to protect students following the school massacre in Newtown, Conn., and after the National Rifle Association called for an armed officer in every U.S. school. The gunman in Newtown used a high-powered rifle to kill 20 students and six educators.
Lawmakers in South Carolina, Oklahoma, Missouri, and South Dakota are looking into legislation that would allow teachers and other school employees to have guns.
Texas Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst on Jan. 11 called for state-funded, specialized firearms training for teachers and administrators. School districts would decide who would carry weapons but would not be required to participate, and training would include how to react during a shooting.
In Arizona’s Maricopa County, Sheriff Joe Arpaio has said he plans to post armed volunteers on school perimeters.
Residents in a Dayton, Ohio, suburb crowded into a school meeting last week to talk about whether staff members and teachers should be armed. Reaction was mixed, according to The Dayton Daily News.
“We need more good guys with guns. That’s the sad reality of the situation,” said Jim Rigano, a Springboro school board member.
Other states are trying clamp down on gun sales and bans on assault rifles.
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Leaders eye school safety plans after Connecticut attack
The NRA’s proposal has prompted mixed reaction in schools across the country, with critics saying it isn’t an answer to gun violence.
“Their solution to resolve the issue around guns [in schools] is to put more guns in the equation?” said Superintendent Hank Grishman of the Jericho, N.Y., schools on Long Island, who has been an educator for 44 years. “If anything, it would be less safe for kids. You would be putting them in the midst of potentially more gunfire.”
In Montpelier, school officials began reviewing security plans after Newtown and decided teachers should not be armed because their first priority in an emergency should be locking doors and protecting students, Grime said. The school already has security cameras and locked doors, and it requires visitors to be buzzed into the front entrance.
The proposal was not announced until just before the board voted unanimously Jan. 9 to arm a select group of employees after consulting with the local police chief and attorneys who reviewed Ohio’s concealed-carry law. The law prohibits guns in schools except in a few cases, and it allows education boards to authorize someone to carry a gun inside schools.
No members of the public spoke out on the measure at the meeting, board President Larry Martin told the Blade. Grime said three people attended.
A letter was sent out to parents after the vote. Only three complained, while close to 150 called or sent eMails supporting the idea in Montpelier, a remote city of about 4,000 residents along Interstate 80 near the convergence of Ohio, Michigan, and Indiana.
“It’s a place where people hold the Second Amendment close to their hearts,” the superintendent said.