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Government/Politics

Lawmakers approve bill to lower training requirements for armed personnel in Ohio schools

Gun sign in school - credit Kasler (4).JPG
Karen Kasler
/
Statehouse News Bureau
A sign on an Ohio school door indicating it's a gun-free zone.

The GOP-dominated legislature has passed a Republican-backed bill that seeks to lower training requirements for armed personnel in schools from more than 700 hours to 24 hours.

The passage of House Bill 99 comes less than a week after 19 children and two teachers were gunned down in locked classrooms in an elementary school in Texas, with armed law enforcement officers standing outside.

Sponsoring Sen. Frank Hoaglund (R-Mingo Junction), who runs a business advising schools on security, said the bill helps the state and schools protect kids.

“Ohio is taking ownership and the burden of ensuring a safe place for education," Hoagland said.

Current law states that armed school personnel should have more than 700 hours of training, which was affirmed in an Ohio Supreme Court decision last summer. In that decision, the court ruled with parents who sued the Madison Local School District in Butler County over the 24 hours of training required for armed employees, saying it conflicted with state law.

The district had allowed those employees to carry weapons after a school shooting in 2016. The school resource officer on duty during that shooting was the father of Rep. Thomas Hall (R-Middletown), who sponsored House Bill 99.

The bill, which was changed in the Senate, does mention 24 hours of training, but an analysis from the Legislative Service Commission says that's not the minimum. It says: "Initial instruction and training may not exceed 24 hours and annual requalification training may not exceed 8 hours."

But Sen. Teresa Fedor (D-Toledo), a former teacher, called the bill crazy, and noted concerns about misplaced weapons and other problems from too little training.

“You don’t want to be back here when there’s a terrible incident and everyone in this room will have blood on your hands," Fedor said.

Republican Senators Matt Dolan (R-Chagrin Falls) and Stephanie Kunze (R-Hilliard) voted with Democrats against the bill.

Because it had been changed in the Senate, it had to pass the House again, which it did on a mostly party line vote.

In a statement, Gov. Mike DeWine says he’ll sign it.

DeWine said in a statement: "Last week I called on the General Assembly to pass a bill that would allow local school districts, if they so chose, to designate armed staff for school security and safety. My office worked with the General Assembly to remove hundreds of hours of curriculum irrelevant to school safety and to ensure training requirements were specific to a school environment and contained significant scenario-based training. House Bill 99 accomplishes these goals, and I thank the General Assembly for passing this bill to protect Ohio children and teachers. I look forward to signing this important legislation."

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