100-plus testify against bill to set minimum standard for armed teachers, staff in school

Madison Twp. Trustee Thomas Hall seeks the 53rd Ohio House District seat in the Nov. 3, 2020, general election. PROVIDED
Madison Twp. Trustee Thomas Hall seeks the 53rd Ohio House District seat in the Nov. 3, 2020, general election. PROVIDED

Butler County lawmaker is not opposed to consider increasing minimum standards, but said HB 99 allows schools to require more.

More than 130 people testified against an Ohio House Bill that would “expressly overrule” a court decision that states teachers and school employees must complete peace officer-level training to be armed.

But Ohio Rep. Thomas Hall, R-Madison Twp., said he’s not opposed to increasing the minimum eight hours of training for armed school teachers and staff proposed in House Bill 99.

The minimum proposed is what is offered by the state’s concealed carry weapons training (CCW). Hall, who introduced the bill in February, said school districts could require higher standards.

“We’re not passing or trying to pass a law allowing teachers to carry guns. That’s already in law. We’re just trying to clarify the training requirements for it,” he said.

The bill is not unlike the one former Butler County lawmaker Bill Coley introduced in May 2020, which passed out of the Ohio Senate with a mostly party-line vote. It received just one hearing in a House committee.

Coley’s bill received just as much opposition last year as Hall’s version did on Thursday ,when 117 people and 16 others representing 12 organizations spoke or offered testimony against House Bill 99.

The bill aims to overrule the 12th District Court of Appeals’ decision in Gabbard vs. Madison Twp., a 2018 lawsuit filed by Erin Gabbard and other parents in the district. They sought to block the district from allowing teachers and staff to carry guns without the training required of law enforcement officials — 728 hours versus the 24 hours of the Faculty and Administrator Training and Emergency Response (FASTER) program the school has in its policy.

Maidson Local Schools’ policy was instituted after the 2016 shooting at the Junior/Senior High School.

The 12th District Court of Appeals ordered the school district to stop the program without more involved training.

Gabbard testified Thursday during a House Criminal Justice Committee hearing, saying, “This does not protect our children, it endangers them.”

“As of March of this year, there have been over 90 reported incidents of guns being mishandled at schools,” Gabbard said. “I want safe and common-sense solutions for protecting our children in school. I want to believe that we all want that. I have tried to understand why anyone would consider a bill with as little as eight hours of training or armed staff.”

Hall said he plans to go through each piece of testimony, which also includes statements offered by representatives of Students Demand Action, Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, Ohio Education Association, Fraternal Order of Police of Ohio, Ohio Federation of Teachers, and Ohio Coalition Against Gun Violence.

Hall said he wants to know what people are saying “because a big portion of this process is making the bill better.”

Hall said he’s spoken with the committee chair, Rep. Jeff LaRe, R-Violet Twp., and plans to speak with the committee’s ranking member, Rep. David Leland, D-Columbus, who plans to offer three amendments.

LaRe intends to hold another hearing for others who oppose the bill, Hall said, and there’s going to be an interested parties meeting on the bill within the next week or two. He hopes to talk to Leland soon.

“The training part is going to be on the table, and I’m not sure what else could be,” Hall said.

He said he would be open to having a school resource officer in every school but is not certain about making that a requirement because “it’s a huge cost” for school districts and police departments.

Staff writer Denise G. Callahan contributed to this story.

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