The number of school districts in one Ohio county that have authorized staff members to carry guns on school property has now grown to five.
This year, school boards at Garaway Local Schools and Claymont City Schools approved the safety measure. They join Newcomerstown Exempted Village Schools, which started arming staff members in 2013, Indian Valley Local Schools (2017) and Tuscarawas Valley Local Schools (2018). All are in Tuscarawas County in eastern Ohio.
Newcomerstown Superintendent Jeff Staggs continues to believe it’s a good idea.
“When seconds count in responding to a dangerous event, the faster the event is stopped more students and staff stay alive,” he said. “I’m still in favor of a highly trained armed staff along with multiple other layers in the school safety plan.
“We continue to train and tweak our school safety plan to meet the new issues that schools face every year. The sheriff’s office has been a huge help in our training program with our journey to get better at school safety.”
Garaway Superintendent James Millet agreed.
“I still think this is a valuable decision to protect Garaway students and staff,” he said. “At Garaway Schools, the safety of each and every child within this community is our district’s highest priority. We are continually examining safety measures for our school district and looking for ways to improve.
“We believe that armed staff is one way to provide a quick response and opportunity to protect people in an attack.”
He said the decision has been well-received at Garaway.
“There is not one perfect solution, but we will try to address all aspects of safety with vigor,” Millet said. “We will be adding a safety dog in January. This will provide another way to respond to an attack as well as prevent an attack by identifying weapons before they enter our school.”
A recent report by the Associated Press raised questions about the safety of arming teachers.
Experts say anyone carrying guns, including teachers, needs ongoing, intensive training to be able to handle their firearms proficiently and respond appropriately in stressful settings — and many law enforcement officers don’t even get that.
“The idea that anybody can go to Joe Smith’s School of Shooting for a day or a week and become proficient at shooting a handgun in a life-and-death situation is a little bit absurd,” Doug Tangen, firearms program manager at the Washington State Criminal Justice Training Commission, the state police academy, told the AP.
Shooting a gun requires psychomotor skills that must be practiced over and over, he said.
Tuscarawas County Sheriff Orvis Campbell said he believes that area educators who have been armed have the training and skills necessary to keep everyone safe.
Teachers there have gone through FASTER training, provided by the Buckeye Firearms Association. FASTER stands for Faculty/Administrator Safety Training & Emergency Response.
Police officers who go to a police academy receive 60 hours of training on firearms, and two days of that is in the classroom, Campbell said. By comparison, area teachers have been given three separate weeks of training.
“I put guys through one of them, and it’s very good,” he said.
“All of them are qualifying at at least the same level as every peace officer (in Ohio), and all of them have kept up so far,” Campbell said.
The staff members are required to keep their gun on their person at all times. They are not allowed to talk about it, and they’re not allow to show their weapon, even to other teachers.
He noted that all of the districts have given his office the ability to say two things — that a staff member cannot carry now because that person is not ready, and that a staff member cannot carry at all because the sheriff’s office doesn’t think the person is skilled enough.
The sheriff said arming staff is a good idea because it’s rare to hear about a teacher running away when there is a shooting.
“I believe teachers love their kids just as much as parents do, or close,” Campbell said. “I think that they will put their lives right in the middle of the line to protect kids, and that’s another reason that I’m not against it, because I really believe that most teachers look at those kids as their kids.”
The sheriff said parents should feel better about their children attending schools with armed staff members.
“My son doesn’t go to a district that carries,” he said. “My daughter works in one. I feel safer for her. I’ve seen her staff members shoot. They’re good.”
Millet doesn’t anticipate a time when armed staff members will no longer be necessary.
“I wish we lived in a time that we did not have to consider safety measures, but we must be thoroughly prepared to protect our students and staff in today’s society,” he said. “I don’t see this changing soon.”