West Carrollton schools to allow trained staff to access gun safes

Credit: Contributed

Credit: Contributed

The West Carrollton School Board approved a resolution Wednesday evening to allow trained staff to access guns in safes located in the school, dubbing the volunteer group its “District Response Team.”

Volunteers would have to complete an interview process, have or obtain a concealed carry license, which includes a yearly background check, complete the state minimum 24 hours of training and eight-hour annual recertification, the district said in a release. West Carrollton plans for volunteers to exceed minimum training hours, but the district did not specify by how much.

Staff members on the team and law enforcement officials will then be able to access firearm safes in hidden locations around the buildings, the release said.

The district said it will keep team member names confidential to “maintain and protect the integrity of the school safety plan.”

The move by the board of education adds an additional layer to West Carrollton’s existing District Safety Plan, according to Janine Corbett, spokeswoman for West Carrollton schools.

“Passage of the resolution means we can form a District Response Team that may be part of the safety protocols already in place,” Corbett said. “The school board has been discussing this and following trends happening in area school districts, especially following the passage of HB 99.”

Corbett emphasized that there are no immediate changes planned and that the resolution is “only the first step to a planning process that will take at least one year, if needed.”

One of the next steps will be to determine if any staff members are willing to volunteer, she said.

If a staff member does volunteer, he or she will have to complete “a rigorous interview, mental health exam and training process that will exceed the state minimum requirements,” Corbett said.

The staff member will not be armed while on school property and will only be able to access a firearm that will be kept in a safe.

Training and the types of safes that may be used are all part of the planning, Corbett said.

“Now that the resolution has passed, we can begin seeking input from law enforcement to assist us as we develop our plan,” she said. “We will continue to work closely with them, along with other experts in school safety and training.”

Police Chief Doug Woodard said West Carrollton Police Department has always enjoyed “an extremely good working relationship” with the district’s teachers and administrators.

“We have participated in joint projects, assisted them in trainings and provided educational programs in the past,” Woodard said. “We will continue to offer the school district any assistance and guidance that they request.”

West Carrollton School Board President Joe Cox said the resolution would add another level of security to the district’s buildings, and added, “We have been following the trends happening locally and in schools across the country. We feel this is the right decision for our students and staff.”

Cox also pointed to similar resolutions in area districts like Bellbrook, Mad River and Sidney.

Bellbrook voted to create an armed volunteer response team in September. The qualifications for the Bellbrook team similarly included an interview and background check, but also explicitly required a mental health screening, 40 hours of training and passing the Ohio Peace Officer Training Academy’s live-fire qualification test.

Asked what the district was doing on the prevention side of school safety, Corbett said “security is always a top priority in the school district.”

“All doors are locked. A buzzer, intercom and camera are located at the entrance to each school so that visitors may be vetted prior to entering the building,” she said. “Additional cameras have been installed at the schools. All staff receive ALICE training and will soon be receiving refresher courses. Our most effective protocol is staff being diligent about who is in the building.”

Corbett said West Carrollton schools has school resource officers or SROs at its Middle School and High School campus and will be adding an SRO at the Intermediate School in January.

She said Superintendent Andrea Townsend is continuing to work with local law enforcement, and would like to see an SRO at the remaining three schools.