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Senate committee okays training requirements for armed personnel in Ohio schools

Ben Adams gets applause from House Bill 99 opponents as he testifies against the bill in a Senate committee on May 31, 2022. He was among the parents who sued the Madison Local School District over armed personnel training requirements. The Ohio Supreme Court agreed with the parents, ruling the district had to require more than 700 hours of training. That decision led the son of the district's school resource officer, Rep. Thomas Hall (R-Middletown), to draft House Bill 99.
Karen Kasler
/
Statehouse News Bureau
Ben Adams gets applause from House Bill 99 opponents as he testifies against the bill in a Senate committee on May 31, 2022. He was among the parents who sued the Madison Local School District over armed personnel training requirements. The Ohio Supreme Court agreed with the parents, ruling the district had to require more than 700 hours of training. That decision led the son of the district's school resource officer, Rep. Thomas Hall (R-Middletown), to draft House Bill 99.

A Republican-sponsored bill to set training requirements for faculty, staff and volunteers to be armed in schools brought opposition from nearly 150 people and groups and got a quick rewrite before it passed a Senate committee.

It was the bill’s first hearing since March, and the first since 19 children and two adults were gunned down at a Texas elementary school last week. It's likely to come to the Senate floor on Wednesday.

15 year old Katherine Hiland of Stark County told the Senate Veterans and Public Safety Committee that school shooters are quite often current or former students who might end of facing an armed teacher.

“You’re asking them to shoot and potentially kill their own students. This is an impossible task for them because many of them have gone into this profession seeking to teach and protect these children,". Hiland said. "It only creates more danger and more stress.”

Cleveland Teachers Union president Shari Obrenski brought up other bills that would ban the teaching of certain so-called divisive issues in class.

“There’s testimony happening about how teachers aren’t trusted to do curriculum. We aren’t trusted with the books we choose, but somehow we’re supposed to be trusted with a gun in school?” said Obrenski, who's also the first vice president of the Ohio Federation of Teachers, one of the state's two teachers' unions.

Speakers were interrupted with applause several times throughout the hearing.

Three supporters offered testimony, including the Buckeye Firearms Association, which provides training to school personnel for a fee.

Legislative Affairs Director Rob Sexton says the bill allows districts to decide if they want armed personnel based on their local law enforcement response time, and that many volunteers who work with schools already have extensive training. The bill requires 24 total hours of training, including 8 hours of training for a concealed carry permit, which Sexton says is enough and appropriate.

“You might as well put in the bill, ‘we don’t want anybody signing up for this program’, because that’s the reality. 150 hours’ worth of training means there will not be armed staff in the school," Sexton said. "So there’s a balance point there. Proficiency is important, but so is availability."

And there was obvious frustration and anger in some of the remarks, such as from Mandy Rothgerber, a member of the gun control advocacy group Moms Demand Action.

Rothgerber was emotional: “You all don’t show that you care. You ignore us. You whisper to each other. Listen to us! Listen to our children. All this room – listen to us. People are dying. Kids are dying. Do you care? Do you really care? Because arming teachers – if you really cared, you wouldn’t pass permitless carry and propose arming teachers.”

Several opponents of the bill asked the committee that instead of this bill that lawmakers consider a ban on certain semi-automatic weapons and a red flag law to allow for seizure of weapons from people deemed to be dangerous to themselves or others – the latter has been proposed by Democrats, but hasn’t gotten a hearing.

In this bill, committee chair Sen. Frank Hoagland (R-Mingo Junction) said he wants to create a team to put together the curriculum for districts which want to allow people to be armed in school.

Sens. Cecil Thomas (D-Cincinnati) and Teresa Fedor (D-Toledo) voted against the amended bill, saying it provided too little training and the public was given too little notice of the hearing and the changes.

The Republican-dominated committee passed the bill, as opponents still in the room nearly four hours after the hearing started chanted “shame”.

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