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Ohio teachers, unions speak out against reduced training to carry guns in schools

Andy Chow
/

Republican leaders said making it easier for teachers to be armed in school will increase classroom safety, but some educators worry it could lead to even more dangerous situations.

Teachers in Ohio have been allowed to carry guns in schools so long as they complete 700 hours of mandatory training — the same required of police recruits.

Lawmakers argued that made it nearly impossible to arm teachers, so they drastically cut that training requirement down to 24 hours.

Julie Holderbaum is a high school English teacher at Minerva High School. She said she has seen her fair share of stress during her 26-year career, but arming more teachers crosses a line.

“If the problem is violence in schools and people bringing guns into schools, I do not think the answer is more guns,” Holderbaum said.

Holderbaum thinks educators could be put in impossible scenarios – such as possibly shooting an armed student – where a split-second decision to take action or not could have dire consequences.

“So I just feel like we're damned if we do and damned if we don't. And if teachers start using weapons in schools, it's not going to be good for teachers, and I don't think it will be safer,” said Holderbaum.

Scott DiMauro, Ohio Education Association president, said he is worried the new law could make schools less safe.

“We don't believe that educators should be put in a dual role where they are responsible primarily for educating children and at the same time for serving as armed security guards in our schools,” said DiMauro.

Instead, DiMauro says Ohio should do more to help coordinate relationships between schools and local law enforcement, put more resources into mental health counselors, and enact what he calls “common sense” gun regulation.

“Schools don't exist in vacuums, and if you have dangerous assault weapons that too easily fall in the hands of people who are posing a threat to children in our schools, then we need to address that. And that's an issue for the larger community. That's an issue for the state of Ohio,” DiMauro said.

The Ohio Federation of Teachers also opposed the bill and called for Gov. Mike DeWine, a Republican, to veto the legislation.

But DeWine signed the bill and stressed that the decision to arm teachers is still up to local school boards.

“We're trying to layer this in and give every school the tools that they need. Ultimately, that school is going to have to ensure the safety of the child. They're going to have to do the best they can. My job is to give them the best I can to help them do that,” said DeWine, during a press event on Monday.

The bill, HB99, was signed less than three weeks after the mass shooting in Uvalde, TX where a gunman killed 21 people, including 19 children inside an elementary school.

DeWine is also calling for more funding for securing school buildings and offering more training so teachers can recognize behavioral health issues.

According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, eight states now allow school employees to carry firearms in the classroom if they complete a training program.

There’s no word yet on how many districts in Ohio plan to utilize the new training requirements which must go through the newly-created Ohio School Safety and Crisis Center.

Copyright 2022 The Statehouse News Bureau. To see more, visit The Statehouse News Bureau.