SUNBURY — District policies regarding weapons were discussed during the Big Walnut Board of Education meeting on Oct. 20.
Fourteen board policies were reviewed at the meeting, with four of them regarding weapons. Board member Steve Fujii said he was surprised to see the policies on the meeting agenda. Board President Doug Crowl and board member Angela Graziosi made up the ad hoc committee on the policies, and Crowl said they had met twice and spent many hours going over them. Crowl said there was a backlog on policies to be reviewed, and that these 14 were pretty straightforward.
Policy review has been considered since early in the year, it was said.
Board member Sherri Dorsch asked if the administrative staff had had enough time to go over the policies, and Superintendent Ryan McLane said that he would prefer it if all parties that are involved were in the same room going over the policies, so as to avoid having to make future corrections.
A motion was made to table the first reading of all 14 board policies, which failed. One policy, regarding transportation, was tabled due to a discrepancy in wording. The second reading, which will take place at the next meeting, will require a vote whether to approve the policies.
Four of the policies were regarding weapons. They are numbers 1617, 3217, 4217 and 7217.
Each of these policies prohibits staff members from possessing a weapon in a school safety zone with the exception of law enforcement or security personnel, an individual who has been issued a concealed handgun license or is active military, and qualified individuals with up to 24 hours of training and written authorization.
“The board will notify the public, using the board’s regular channels of public communication, that it has authorized one or more persons to go armed within a school operated by the board when such authorization is granted,” the policy states. “The board will also submit a current list of qualified individuals who have received written authorization to carry weapons to the Ohio School Safety and Crisis Center which is within the Department of Public Safety. Records pertaining to individuals authorized to carry weapons onto school property do not constitute public records.”
If approved, the superintendent would post a notice at schools, school premises, buses and activities, with wording to the effect of, “Unless otherwise authorized by law, pursuant to Ohio Revised Code 2923.122, no person shall knowingly possess, have under the person’s control, convey, or attempt to convey a deadly weapon or dangerous ordnance into a school safety zone.”
“The weapons policies were updated due to the changes in the law from Ohio House Bill 99,” McLane said in an email to The Gazette. The district is not required to approve the policies.
During the public comment portion of the meeting, a parent of two students complained to the board about the weapons policy, saying her questions about it had gone unanswered. She did not feel the staff and teachers should be armed and that weapons didn’t belong in schools. The board is discussing parental choice regarding the books the district carries, but not on arming personnel, she said.
Another parent said there was no data to support that armed guards improved school safety. She asked what qualifies the board to make the decision to arm teachers.
Also during the public comment portion, one parent asked the board to adopt a religious release time policy for weekly Bible education for students. He said 180 signatures have been collected in the community in support of the measure. Members of the LifeWise Academy, a Christian school in Hilliard, also spoke in support of religious release time.
In business matters, the board approved the hiring of two bus drivers, rejected promoting an office assistant to secretary, and promoted Travis Dickson to head of maintenance. The board then went into executive session for more than an hour before adjourning.