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Northeast Ohio school districts react to new law allowing teachers to carry firearms in classrooms

Days after the signing of House Bill 99, area districts are having conversations about policies surrounding guns in schools.

CLEVELAND — On Monday, Ohio Governor Mike DeWine signed House Bill 99, allowing school boards to determine whether or not to arm school staff. Those who are armed will require up to 24 hours of school specific training, up to eight hours of annual requalification training, and a criminal background check.

In their board meeting Tuesday night, the Cleveland Metropolitan School District’s board voted unanimously for a resolution against authorizing staff to be armed in schools.

RELATED: Cleveland Metropolitan School District will not arm teachers and employees, despite new Ohio law

The resolution stated, “Affirming that, notwithstanding Ohio Substitute House Bill 99, Cleveland Municipal School District teachers and other employees, who are not employed as safety and security officers, will not be authorized to be armed with deadly weapons, including firearms, in school safety zones, including within school buildings and on school grounds.”

The resolution went on to call arming teachers a “misguided attempt” to make students safer, and said “the presence of undertrained or improperly trained persons armed with firearms in our schools would create a dangerous environment in our schools.”

The decision to not allow teachers to be armed came as a relief to Shari Obrenski, president of the Cleveland Teachers Union.

“To introduce firearms into a setting where there are hundreds of children each day is just not a wise course of action," Obrenski said, adding that “there was no thought” in this legislation about the storage of the weapon, and how to keep guns out of the hands of children.

“We did not go into education to be law enforcement officers. We have people that do that for a living that choose to go into that for a living,” Obrenski said. “Secondly, I would say that the real problems in education stem around underfunding schools for decades, and problems that we have in society around guns are about guns, not about some of the things that our legislators are trying to make it about.”

In a Mentor Public Schools Board of Education meeting on Tuesday night, multiple board members expressed their desires to not have educators carry guns in school, and talked about creating policies addressing the topic.

"It is my opinion that we create policy that protects our schools by limiting guns to trained law enforcement professionals,” said board member Maggie Cook.

On June 8, Dr. Michael Hanlon, superintendent of Chardon Local Schools, wrote a letter to Chardon families regarding the legislation, which had not yet been signed by DeWine at the time. The letter read in part, “The topic of arming school personnel in the Chardon Schools under the provisions of this pending legislation is not under consideration by our Board of Education at this time.” 

The letter also read that the district’s focus at this time is enhancing their “strong working relationships” with the Chardon Police Department, their school resource officer, and the Geauga County Sheriff’s Office.

In a statement to 3News on the topic of House Bill 99, the Parma City School District shared the following: "We have not made a decision on HB 99 and will have a thoughtful discussion with our leadership on what is best for our students at a later date."

Meanwhile, Akron Public Schools Director of Communication Mark Williamson provided the below statement to 3News. The statement says in part that “allowing staff members to carry guns would only serve to make us more vulnerable.”

Full statement from Akron Public Schools:

"Akron Public schools has in place multiple board policies prohibiting staff, students, and visitors from carrying guns into the schools. Any adjustment to our practice would take board action following input from families, students, staff and our community on the matter. "

"It is our firm belief that bolstering our current investments in security staffing and technology would be the best approach to make us safer. allowing staff members to carry guns would only serve to make us more vulnerable."

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