With mass shootings continuing to rise in prevalence across the country, particularly in schools, the prospect of arming teachers has taken center stage as school districts and state legislators look for ways to better protect children in the face of increasing danger.
During Thursday’s meeting of the Olentangy Schools Board of Education, board members weighed in on the possibility of arming teachers in the district in response to Gov. Mike DeWine’s recent approval of House Bill 99. Signed by DeWine on June 13, House Bill 99 grants local boards of education the authority to decide whether or not to allow their teachers to carry firearms.
“This is a local choice, not mandated by the legislature nor by the government. Each school board will determine what is best for their students, their staff, and their community,” DeWine said following his signing of the bill.
The bill also significantly decreases the number of hours a teacher must commit to firearm training before carrying in school to 24 hours, down from the 700 hours of training previously required by state law.
Now empowered to make the decision, Olentangy board members expressed no interest in arming teachers at this time.
Board member Brandon Lester opened the discussion on Thursday by stating, “This truly is a very important issue. It’s something that is on the minds of a lot of community members. We’ve heard from a lot of people over the past week as this (bill) came out. This is something that we all take extraordinarily seriously, not just as board members but as parents. We’re all parents of children in the schools, and just like all of you (in attendance) and all you out there watching, we want to see all of the kids come home safely every day.”
Lester cited two primary reasons he doesn’t believe arming teachers is a good idea in the district, beginning with the expertise teachers likely would lack in handling crisis situations.
“When you think about these crisis situations, we want to have the people who are the experts in that, who have the best training and expertise … That would be our police, resource officers, and individuals like that,” Lester said. “Having teachers who have very low training requirements — we could certainly set higher training requirements — whose job is not to do that doesn’t make sense to me. Our teachers’ job is to teach. We want them to take training to be able to teach, to better support our kids, and time taken away from that is time away from doing what they’re supposed to do, which is maximizing learning.”
Lester added that he is also very concerned about adding additional weapons in schools that teachers would have to keep track of, as well as how those weapons would be secured and the potential for accidents. He went on to state the district is fortunate to be in an area that has many safety resources at its disposal, including police and resource officers, who he said can respond quickly to a crisis.
Board member LaKesha Wyse concurred with Lester, pointing out that she has children in the school and is also married to a teacher but remains firm in believing arming teachers is not the solution to the issue.
Board member Kevin Daberkow said that he grew up around guns and was taught from a young age the responsibility that comes with owning firearms. And although he has no fear of guns, he doesn’t believe the lowered requirements for teachers are enough to mold expert firearm handlers in schools, nor will it address the issue at hand.
“I do not want to arm teachers in my schools,” Daberkow said. “I don’t think that will address the problem. Twenty-four hours is just not enough time to become an expert at something so crucial as having a weapon in our schools … Arming our teachers is not our solution.”
Finally, acting Board President Kevin O’Brien wrapped up the discussion by stating his belief that the district has the right measures in place to protect students.
“I have no problem with responsible gun owners,” he said. “This isn’t about being anti-guns. I believe we have sufficient and effective strategies to keep our students and staff safe, and we will continue to evolve those strategies.”