The number of teachers who have signed up to take advantage of a free training program offered by a gun rights group is growing. But there are still a lot of questions about the idea of arming teachers in schools. Statehouse correspondent Karen Kasler reports.
Teachers have been responding in a big way to the Armed Teacher Training Program, says Jim Irvine with the Buckeye Firearms Foundation.
IRVINE: “The latest numbers just in are 759, over 700 of them in the state of Ohio.”
KASLER: “Is that number a surprise to you?”
IRVINE: “It is. I expected several hundred people to respond to this, but not the response that we have gotten.”
The classes are still being developed, and there’s no timeline on when they’d be offered yet. But Irvine says the gun rights group decided to offer the three-day program to educators and school employees after the deadly shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary in Connecticut last month. And Irvine says it’s time districts reexamined “gun-free zone” policies, because he says they leave teachers, administrators, school personnel and students vulnerable.
IRVINE: “Having a policy that helps someone achieve a high body count is a bad idea. It’s a failed policy, and we need to get rid of that and put in place policies that actually work to lower our body count.”
Though hundreds have signed up for the training, there are more than 150,000 educators, school officials and other personnel in the state of Ohio. And that training wouldn’t mean a teacher could carry a weapon into a school unless the district specifically authorized it. Damon Asbury with the Ohio School Boards Association says it’s too early to tell whether districts want to go that way.
ASBURY: “The conversation I’ve heard by and large is that just arming teachers may not be the most effective or even safest way to go about providing security. There’s lots of pros and cons, I’m sure, but we’ve had school shootings in settings where there have been armed guards.”
But Patricia Frost-Brooks with the state’s largest teachers’ union, the Ohio Education Association, says teachers shouldn’t be forced into what she calls a dual role.
FROST-BROOKS: “We aren’t going to be there to be armed and carry a weapon and then be the academic leaders and do the teaching and preparing students for this 21st century skills.”
The attorney general has said he supports having someone with experience and training posted in a school with access to a gun. But for now, Mike DeWine is talking up training his office is offering starting next week to school employees on how to prepare for, to stop, and to deal with a school shooting situation.
DEWINE: “I think it really comes back to what that local school wants to do and I think the courses that we’re offering, frankly, are going to help that school better understand the nature of the threat. I think once they get that information, they’re going to be in a better position to make, as a community, a decision about whether they want someone actually in that school who has a gun who has been trained.”
Meanwhile, the attorney general says there are still about 50 schools out of around 5,000 that have not provided his office with floor plans for their buildings and required emergency safety plans. The AG’s office contacted those which hadn’t complied after last year’s shooting in Chardon, and then again after last month’s tragedy in Connecticut.