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Akron Public Schools opts not to arm teachers and employees, despite Ohio's new law

"Educational spaces should be free of guns. Arming our staff will not solve the gun epidemic we see in this country," says APS' board president.

AKRON, Ohio — Two weeks after Gov. Mike DeWine signed a bill into law that will allow school districts in Ohio to arm employees, Akron Public Schools' Board of Education unanimously agreed to a resolution that prohibits weapons in any school safety zone, including on school grounds and in buildings.

"The Board of Education of the Akron Public School District believes that the presence of persons armed with firearms, other dangerous weapons, or dangerous ordnance in our schools or on our property, other than on-duty law enforcement officers, would create a dangerous environment in our schools and on our property, and would threaten the lives and safety of students, staff, and the public," the district wrote in the resolution.

The measure, which was unanimously agreed to during Monday evening's meeting, strengthened previous policies regarding weapons on school property, while rejecting the authority given to the school board by House Bill 99.  

The resolution "prohibits any person, including Board employees, from bringing on to or into, or possessing on or in, any school safety zone controlled by the Board, including the School District’s grounds and buildings, or while in or operating any Board vehicle, any deadly weapon, including firearms, or dangerous ordnance, unless the person is a law enforcement officer currently certified or licensed as such by the State of Ohio or the federal government, is on-duty, and for whom the District is within the officer’s jurisdiction." 

"With so much vulnerability surrounding us that we know about, this is not a time to cause more harm to our students and staff," said APS Board President Dr. N.J. Akbar after the vote. "Educational spaces should be free of guns. Arming our staff will not solve the gun epidemic we see in this country."

Earlier this month, the Cleveland Metropolitan School District likewise voted unanimously not to arm teachers following the passage of House Bill 99. DeWine also recently sent a letter to all Ohio school superintendents stating that arming school personnel is "optional."

The Akron Public Schools Board of Education, Superintendent Christine Fowler Mack, and the leaders of several unions including the Ohio Association of Public School Employees and the Service Employees International Union issued the following statement on Tuesday: 

"Schools should be a judgment free environment serving as a safe haven for all children. This is what we seek to provide for the students in our district. We are saddened by the new law that permits the arming of school employees.  Let's be clear, we vehemently disagree that more guns are the answer [or more guns in schools are the answer].  We believe that permitting teachers and staff to be armed with weapons would make our schools less safe and increase the vulnerability of our students and staff.  Our district's focus is on educating students and shining a light on their greatest expectations and dreams. We only do this by ensuring that our schools remain safe and secure. 

Following the most recent school shooting in Texas, as a nation and state, we should seek to remain vigilant in resolving the ease with which individuals can access deadly weapons.  Law enforcement experts have attested that arming more school staff with guns would do little to nothing to protect themselves and their students from gun violence in an era when assault weapons remain easily accessible. 

We, therefore, stand united in calling for common-sense solutions to keep schools safe and opposing arming school staff.  We support the board's resolution and policy changes aimed at keeping our schools safe by refusing to use the option that this new law offers.  By doing so, we are keeping our focus on providing the highest quality education to all of our scholars." 

You can watch Monday night's APS Board of Education meeting below:

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