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Ohio Appeals Court Overturns School District Policy For Arming Staff Members

Concerned parents sued the Madison Local School District over its training requirements for staff members to carry a concealed weapon. Now, those policies have been struck down.

In a March 30 decision, the Ohio Court of Appeals ruled against a school district policy that allowed staff members to be armed with concealed weapons if they had a license and completed 24 hours of active shooter training.

The 2-1 vote by the appeals panel struck down the policy of the Madison Local School District, which claimed that its staff members’ classification as “approved volunteers” exempted them from state training requirements for armed school guards and peace officers.

The court found that the Madison Local policy conflicted with state law, which requires any person who “goes armed while on duty” at an educational institution to complete peace officer training, which is currently a minimum of 728 hours, Education Week reported.

"The 'approved volunteer' designation does not alter the inevitable conclusion that the Madison Local employees are 'armed while on duty,'" the judges wrote in their March 30 majority opinion on Gabbard v. Madison Local School District, according to Education Week. "Madison Local cannot unilaterally change the training requirements set forth by the General Assembly."

The school district, which serves about 1,500 students in southwest Ohio, implemented the policy after a student opened fire on his classmates in the Madison junior/high school cafeteria in February 2016. No one was killed in the incident, but four were injured.

Five concerned parents, backed by Everytown for Gun Safety, sued the school district over the policy in 2018 amid growing calls for arming teachers after the Parkland high school shooting.

“For good reason, Ohio requires that teachers undergo extensive training before carrying hidden, loaded handguns in classrooms,” Rachel Bloomekatz, a Columbus-based attorney who worked on the case, said in a statement. “As the court recognized, the district’s program fails to meet the state’s clear requirements. We’re pleased by today’s ruling and believe it will improve the safety of students, teachers and staff.”

The decision overturns a 2019 lower court decision that denied an injunction on the district’s policy, but ordered Madison Local to publicly release previously secret policies and procedures for armed staff. Both courts have protected psychological evaluations of armed staff from public release, matter that is still the subject of “ongoing litigation,” according to Everytown Law.

In a statement to local news outlets, Madison Local’s Board of Education said they were disappointed in the “split decision” issued by the court, but were heartened by the dissenting judge’s opinion as well as support from the Ohio attorney general.

“While this policy has received a substantial amount of attention, it is just one of the many steps that the District has taken to ensure student safety,” the Madison statement reads. “We are considering and exploring all of our options moving forward, including, if necessary, asking the Ohio Supreme Court to intervene.”

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