Madison Schools plan to arm school staffers draws crowd to meeting

Credit: DaytonDailyNews

Caption
Community members speak about Madison school board plan to arm staffers.

Credit: DaytonDailyNews

There was a lot of talking about arming school staffers at Madison’s school board meeting Wednesday evening, but the board gave no sign of walking away from their stance.

Despite going into executive session toward the end of the three-hour meeting to privately discuss security issues, the board emerged as they had entered: Not commenting about their previously stated position to be one of the first districts in Southwest Ohio to allow trained staffers access to firearms.

ExploreMORE: Madison Local Schools board votes to allow arming of teachers, staff

But about a dozen school parents and community residents in the Butler County district had plenty to say to the board during the public comment portion of the agenda at the end of the meeting.

In 2016, the school was the site of a shooting that saw a student wound three classmates.

Spurred on in part by a board statement released earlier this week, which questioned “why anyone would want to work against our goal of protecting students,” opponents of Madison’s armed security plan tried to convince the board to alter course.

MORE: Madison school board questions why anyone would object to arming staffers

Most — including school parent Erin Gabbard, who with the help of a national, anti-gun advocacy group has joined with some other parents in suing the district to stop the arming program — re-iterated their opposition to letting staffers have guns available to them in school.

“This lawsuit is not about money, it’s about safety,” Gabbard told the board and the more than 70 people at the meeting in the Madison Junior/Senior High School library.

“It’s insulting,” Gabbard said in characterizing the board’s recent statement, adding the implication by members is that those opposed to the district’s plan don’t care about school security.

“We want a comprehensive security plan to protect all of our kids,” she said, referring to alternative safety plans and programs including those that identify and help troubled students who may be prone to violence in schools.

ExploreMORE: School parents sue Madison over plans to arm some staffers

She also said Madison’s plan does not meet state requirements for arming school employees.

Gabbard and four other parents with children in Madison Schools, are represented by attorneys from Columbus who work in conjunction with the New York City-based Everytown for Gun Safety Support Fund, a national advocacy group opposed to gun violence.

Madison Twp. resident Pete Trensum said he likes the board’s plan to arm staffers and resents those outside the community trying to influence the school system’s policies.

“Why do we have these outside organizations funding money … and we have attorneys coming in here saying you can’t do this (arm staffers)” as some other school systems in Ohio — and nationwide — have chosen to do, said Trensum.

“They (anti-gun advocates) are here for their organization to make money or to get notoriety, they don’t care about these schools. We (local taxpayers) are funding these schools and so far we have paid for these things (arming staffers) to take place,” said Trensum.

ExploreMORE: In rural communities, ‘guns are just a part of life’

“Why should my tax money go to fighting off (the lawsuit) against something that most of the community is in favor of,” he said of the expanded use of firearms in the schools.

When asked by the Journal-News, each of the Madison Board of Education members declined to comment about the district’s armed staffer program as did Madison Schools Superintendent Lisa Tuttle-Huff.