CLEVELAND — House Bill 99, which allows school boards in Ohio to choose to arm certain school staff members, and lays out training requirements for those staff members, went into effect Monday, Sept. 12.
“What the bill does is essentially reverts back to the prior practice of allowing local school districts to make a local decision on whether or not they will permit certain school staff members to be armed on school grounds,” said Gov. Mike DeWine on June 13, when he announced that he had signed House Bill 99.
The bill requires staff members who carry guns at school undergo yearly criminal background checks, up to 24 hours of initial school-specific training and up to eight hours of yearly school-specific requalification training to be developed by the Ohio School Safety Center (OSSC). Governor DeWine has directed the OSSC to require the maximum training hours, and create additional training for districts that want more.
Additionally, the bill appropriates $6 million to expand the OSSC.
3News reached out to the Ohio Department of Public Safety to ask about whether any schools have already implemented House Bill 99, and received the following statement:
“The Ohio School Safety Center (OSSC) is in the process of developing state training curriculum as required by House Bill 99. Once finalized, the OSSC will use this curriculum to train school staff members authorized by their school districts to carry firearms. No training requests have been received because the state’s training is still being developed.”
Additionally, when 3News asked when the training will be finalized, the department responded they are working “as quickly as we can to finalize the curriculum.” Once the curriculum is finalized, the department said that “regional mobile training officers will work with schools who choose to arm their staff to ensure they know everything they need to know about the curriculum requirements.”
3News also reached out to school districts across Northeast Ohio to learn where they stand on House Bill 99. Both Akron Public School and the Cleveland Metropolitan School District will not arm teachers.
In June, Mark Williamson, director of communications for Akron Public Schools shared the following statement with 3News pertaining to House Bill 99:
"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. Akron Public Schools believes allowing staff members to carry guns would only serve to make us more vulnerable."
Williamson told 3News on Monday that nothing has changed in the district since they issued that statement.
In Cleveland, a spokesperson for the Cleveland Metropolitan School District also told 3News Monday that there are no updates or changes. The district’s board voted unanimously for a resolution against authorizing staff to be armed in school.
The resolution reads in part, “the Board of Education of the Cleveland Municipal School District believes that teachers and other educators in our schools, who educate, mentor and nurture their students should not be asked to arm themselves with deadly weapons in a misguided attempt to make their students safer.” Here is the full resolution:
In an August 4 Board of Education work session for Parma City Schools, the topic of House Bill 99 was discussed, but no decision was made. Currently, staff are not armed in Parma schools.
The district’s superintendent, Dr. Charles Smialek, shared the following statement with 3News:
"At our August 4 Work Session, members of our Senior Leadership Team, local experts in school security, and our Board of Education discussed safety measures we currently employ and the potential to add more to further "harden" our schools. We agreed to continue to review throughout the year our procedures and explore others, including the provisions outlined in House Bill 99. Currently, Ohio has not provided the streamlined course they promised to structure to help school staff members gain the ability to carry a firearm on campus. We will continue to discuss the potential to arm staff members once we have been able to study the credentialing course promised in House Bill 99."
Chardon Local Schools told 3News that a letter from their superintendent, sent to families on June 8, remains current. In the letter, Dr. Michael Hanlon wrote in part, that, “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.”
Here is the full letter:
Euclid City Schools told 3News that while they have approved a resolution to add armed security personnel to staff, they do not have a plan to arm anyone else. Here is the statement shared by 3News by Euclid City Schools:
"The Euclid Board of Education approved a resolution this summer adding armed security personnel to our staff. These positions are specifically OPOTA trained (or equivalent training) and professionally screened armed guards at our schools. This measure is not a step towards arming our teachers under the provisions approved in HB 99 – there is no plan to arm anyone on our staff outside of these OPOTA Certified and mental health screened armed guards. Euclid City Schools property remains a gun-free campus unless specifically authorized by the School Board. The fundamental purpose of these positions is to defend children, teachers and staff from outside threats while allowing teachers to teach and students to learn.
Along with the armed safety personnel, in all Euclid district school buildings, metal detection systems will be used for middle school and high school students, adult visitors and non-regular employees. At the Early Learning Village, Educational Options Center and Elementary Schools, metal detectors will be employed for adult visitors and non-regular employees (such as substitute teachers), but not for students at this time.
Euclid stakeholders want the district to provide more comprehensive social-emotional supports to our Students. As a result, in addition to the physical layers of protection approved over the summer, two Student Mentoring Specialist positions have been created at Euclid High School. These Student Mentoring Specialists assist in creating positive interactions between students and act as allies that students can rely on for support.
These important safety and wellness initiatives added to the existing supports we were already offering to promote student and community wellness. The metal detectors and armed guards supplement our PBIS programs, the Student Mentoring Specialists, Behavior Specialists, and Psychologists in addressing school safety. We also have partnerships with NEON Healthcare, Right at School Before and Aftercare, Peter James Development & Independent Living Inc. and Chancelight Behavioral Health and Education Solutions. Additionally, the Educational Options Center at Memorial Park School opened this year to help build a comprehensive culture of wellness in the Euclid Schools."
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