SUNBURY, Ohio (WCMH) — The Big Walnut Board of Education introduced policy changes Thursday to allow school teachers to carry firearms — making the district one of the first in Ohio to do so.
The policy would opt the district into a state law passed in June that relaxed training requirements for school employees to carry concealed weapons inside school safety zones. Under the changes, staff members who wish to carry firearms in school would have to undergo 24 hours of training and eight hours of annual recertification – significantly less than the 737 hours previously required under Ohio law.
The board did not read or discuss the proposed changes to the weapons policy during the meeting Thursday night, but it voted to hold a second reading of the changes at a later meeting. Some community members, however, still had questions – and concerns – about the weapons policy.
Erin Dalton, a parent and opponent of the weapons policy change, said she was concerned about whether the board had carefully considered the policy proposal’s implications, particularly how it might affect students.
“Can you tell me how you explain to our children why our teachers are armed?” Dalton asked the board. “Could you explain it to me like I’m 5 years old? Because that is what we need to do with elementary children.”
The proposed policy changes give the board power to authorize any staff member or visitor to carry a concealed firearm in school who has undergone training, or is a law enforcement officer, and submits to an annual background check. The board would notify the public any time it authorizes a new person to carry firearms and would provide a list of authorized employees to the Ohio School Safety and Crisis Center – but not to parents or students.
Records pertaining to the authorization of school employees to carry guns are exempt from public records law under Ohio’s most recent gun legislation.
Rachel Snyder, a parent, teacher outside the district and longtime gun owner, said her outstanding questions about the policy changes leave her on the fence about their efficacy and safety.
“I know it would be for the greater good, but there are so many liabilities and ‘What ifs,’” Snyder said.
Snyder said she wanted input from teachers, students and law enforcement on the policies and asked the board to take its time evaluating the proposals. Specifically, Snyder questioned whether 24 hours of training was enough for a person to feel comfortable in an emergency situation such as a shooting.
“I’ve been shooting a gun since I was a kid. I grew up outside of Center Village, and it’s what I do — and I’m an excellent shot,” said Snyder. “But it’s a different situation when you get into a school, and you’re surrounded by kids.”
The board’s next meeting is Nov. 10. It is unclear if a second reading on the policies will be on the next meeting agenda.