A northern Ohio school district, in a move considered to be a first in the state, gave the green light on Jan. 9 for staff to carry concealed handguns on school grounds.
The 5-0 vote by the Montpelier Exempted Village School Board is aimed to strengthen safety measures for school children in the wake of the Newton, Connecticut shooting last December.
A Jan. 10 report by the Toledo Blade said custodial staff would be armed for defensive purposes.
Big 3 News could not independently verify the Toledo Blade’s claim that janitors would be packing heat, but we did confirm with district officials that the unanimous Board action does not include arming the teaching staff.
The Jan. 9 Board meeting summary says a resolution was approved authorizing “certain individuals” to carry concealed firearms on school premises.
Under Ohio law, school boards have the flexibility to allow properly licensed staff members to carry concealed weapons.
Montpelier Exempted Village School Superintendent Dr. Jamison J. Grime on Tuesday denied a request to release a copy of the Resolution or identify specific individuals, presumably out of concern for their personal safety.
“We are not releasing the resolution,” Grime said in an email to Big 3 News. “We are also not releasing the names of the individuals that will be carrying with the exception that teachers will not be carrying.”
Grime said non-teaching staff must have an Ohio license to carry a concealed handgun (CCW) and four days of active shooter training.
Montpelier School Board Member Debra Clum told Big 3 News in a separate email on Monday evening that the Board’s action was taken to ensure the safety of both students and staff.
“Safety precautions are being discussed and are being put in place,” Clum said. “Everything in our power will be done to keep our students and staff safe.”
Several of the school’s personnel have law enforcement backgrounds, according to Clum.
“We are a small community, so our citizens have full time jobs and many volunteer for public service,” Clum said of the town that has about 4,000 residents. “Our people are highly qualified and intelligent individuals contrary to comments made by comedians and the news media.”
According to the most recent statistics published by Ohio Attorney General Mike Dewine’s office, sheriffs in 88 of the state’s counties issued 54,021 regular licenses in 2011. A total of 788 permit applications were denied statewide during that period.
In Williams County, Ohio, home of Montpelier Exempted Village School District, 181 regular licenses were issued in 2011, with no suspensions, revocations or denials of permit applications.
Ohio also has formal & informal reciprocity agreements with at least 32 states, meaning conceal carry permits issued in Ohio are recognized by each of the other states and vice versa.
Clum said prior to the Board’s action to arm non-teaching staff, the school district and others around the state of Ohio participated in routine lock-down drills since the 1999 high school shooting in Columbine, Colorado.
“Up until now, the drills consisted of teachers locking doors, turning off lights, placing students away from windows, and keeping them quiet,” Clum said.
The frequency of the drills was once per year and those drills only lasted for about 20-30 minutes, according to Clum.
In addition to arming select staff, the Board’s action mandates extensive two day training for all staff members.
“This training will give our staff members more resources to keep the students and themselves safe,” Clum explained. “Part of the training will be directed to those who do carry a firearm. Another portion of the training will be directed to those who do not want to carry a firearm, but want to learn how to protect themselves and others.”
The District plans to provide continual training for individuals who do carry concealed firearms and opportunities for continual practice.
As one might imagine, the notion of broom-pushing janitors waving handguns through the hallways of Montpelier’s schools has drawn the attention of critics around the nation.
Jason Linkins, a writer at the Huffington Post, said in a Jan 11. article that the Montpelier’s school decision to arm their staff would create a “false sense of security” by throwing “warm bodies” into the path of potential shooters.
He then went on to make a politically-charged reference to America’s military men and women dying in foreign wars by equating their deaths with the Board’s decision to take defensive measure to protect children and staff from deranged shooters.
“But since sending forgotten-about working-class Americans overseas to die for us is working out so great,” Linkins wrote, “we may as well give forgotten-about working-class Americans the chance to die for us at home, too.”
Safety & Sovereignty: A Teacher’s Perspective
All too often, the facts in the gun violence debate are muffled by the overwhelming emotion generated by those on both sides of the issue seeking to balance the children’s safety needs with a robust protection of constitutional guarantees.
“Too often we have found ourselves as a nation helpless due to our own laws and regulations,” said “Melissa,” a public school teacher we spoke with in an exclusive interview on Tues. who asked to remain anonymous due to the sensitivity of her employment.
“In cases such as the recent public shootings, we have once again become our own victims.” Melissa said. “We have so over-regulated our guns that we now have groups of people that are sitting ducks to attacks.”
Melissa said in most of the recent public school shootings, “safe free zone” regulations that restrict firearms from school campuses prevented anyone from being able to defend the innocent.
“I’ve heard it said that it is unwise to arm the academic population,” Melissa remarked. “That teachers have never been in the real world and don’t know how to deal with ‘worldly’ issues. That teachers have too much on their plates to add to their stress by asking them to become armed guards.
“As a teacher, I do agree that there are many stresses that come along with the job,” she continued. “However, for me, one of those stresses should not be my own safety or the safety of my students. My life in the classroom does not define me as a person. Not only have I been in the academic world, but I was also raised with an appreciation and competency for guns. I know how to handle them and I am comfortable around them.
“To ask me to conceal and carry in my classroom would not be intimidating, but rather I feel it would offer a sense of personal comfort.”
Melissa went on to address the argument that students may feel intimidated by teachers carrying weapons in the school environment.
“What many don’t realize and might be surprised to find out is many people currently already conceal and carry in every day situations,” Melissa said. “The idea being that others don’t know you have a gun. This is possible for anyone, any gender, and body type.”
“Above all else, I do want to emphasize safety first…” – Concealed Carry Holsters & Outfits for Women, posted to YouTube by faliaphotography
“What this all comes down to is arming the appropriate people,” Melissa continued. “It isn’t about forcing someone who is uncomfortable with guns to carry one, but rather allowing those who already have the competency and ability, the legal right to do what many of them may already be doing.
“The Second Amendment is clear: ‘A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.’
“It becomes an issue not just about safety but rather the fact that our right to carry guns is also directly tied to our state sovereignty,” Melissa concluded. “We must maintain the individual right to bear arms not just for our safety from others with guns but also for safety from an overzealous federal government.
“By maintaining the right to arm people on school campuses, we are accomplishing two things; our safety and our sovereignty.”
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