A sharply divided Ohio Supreme Court has struck down a southwest Ohio school district’s policy of allowing 10 teachers and staff to carry weapons in school buildings with just 24 hours of training.
The Madison Local School district maintained it had the authority to set that policy, but some parents objected.
In a 4-3 ruling, the court says state law prohibits any employee from being armed at work unless they have completed more than 700 hours of basic peace officer training or have 20 years in law enforcement.
Chief Justice Maureen O'Connor and the court's three Democrats agreed for the majority, while the three Republicans besides O'Connor dissented.
The court heard the case in January, in arguments that went three times longer than usual.
The district’s attorney Matt Blickensderfer told the justices that lawmakers left up the decisions on arming teachers and staff up to school boards. He said districts can allow certain people, such as police officers and school resource officers, to carry weapons into school buildings though state law says weapons aren't permitted.
"If the General Assembly had chosen that any school employee who's armed at the school after receiving such authorization were subject to peace officer training, then the General Assembly would have much more clearly said that," Blickensderfer said.
Rachel Bloomekatz represented the five Madison Local Schools parents who sued over the policy that required just 24 hours of training for an employee to be armed in school.
"It allowed school boards to give an exemption for anyone who has written authorization by that school board," Bloomekatz said. "But it did not give boards broad, unfettered discretion to displace all other areas of the Revised Code that may apply."
And she noted: “The board authorized here less training than a Little League umpire, less training than a nail technician in Ohio." But Justice Sharon Kennedy said that was a question about policy on training, not whether the training was required.
Kennedy and the other two Republicans who dissented said they felt the peace officer training requirements don't apply to teachers and school staff, and that the school board had the authority to institute its own policy for armed teachers and staff.
The Madison Local School district in Butler County enacted the policy after four students were hurt by a 14-year-old shooter at the junior/senior high school in 2016.