CLEVELAND - A small town Ohio school board voted unanimously to allow four employees who have permits to carry concealed weapons to bring their guns to school once they have some tactical training, the school superintendent said on Friday.
Jamie Grime, superintendent of the Montpelier Village schools in western Ohio, would not identify the four employees but said they are not teachers.
The Ohio decision comes as school boards and administrators across the country grapple with how to keep students safe following the massacre of 20 small children at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut last month.
The National Rifle Association, which advocates for gun owners, has proposed putting armed guards in every school. President Barack Obama and some other politicians want more controls on the possession and purchases of guns and ammunition.
While some schools nationwide have armed guards or a police presence on the grounds, allowing teachers or school support workers to bear arms is more controversial.
Ohio law leaves the decision of who can carry a gun on school grounds up to the individual districts, provided those who are armed have proper state concealed carry permits.
“It’s a crazy world; it’s crazy out there. We lock the doors of our school and we pretend it’s secure,” said Grime, whose three children go to the Montpelier Village school that houses kindergarten through high school students.
The school board in Montpelier Village, a town of 4,100 people, also cited in its decision on Wednesday the shooting at a high school in the town of Chardon near Cleveland last February that claimed the lives of three students.
“The recent shootings have made me re-evaluate my thoughts on how to ensure that our students have a safe place to learn.” said Debra Clum, a Montpelier school board member.
Grime said the plan will not go into effect for at least six weeks to give the school district time to conduct an education campaign.
At least two other Ohio school districts — Tipp City and Springboro — said they have begun discussing whether to allow armed employees but no decisions have been made.
“We had an organizational meeting last week and we are looking into the legality of the issue of arming employees,” said John Kronour, superintendent of the Tipp City school district.
The school board was split on the issue during the discussion last week, Kronour said of the district with five buildings and 2,680 students.
“We would be looking for feedback from the community and wouldn’t make a decision without input first,” he said.
Springboro school board member Jim Rigano put the topic on the agenda for Thursday night’s meeting, he said.
The debate showed that people were on both sides of the issue though perhaps leaning in favor, said Rigano, who has a concealed carry permit and favors arming school employees.
Since the meeting, Rigano said one employee of the school district with 5,700 students has asked to bring a weapon into the school.
“I wanted to at least start a discussion, a serious discussion,” Rigano said. “If the conclusion is that we look at our safety plan and everyone feels that we are safe enough then OK but some people think that conceal carry is a good answer.”
Rigano believes that allowing employees to bring guns into schools could be a deterrent to shootings.
“If the shooter believes there is a good chance of encountering someone with a gun that will stop them,” he said. “Shooters come in knowing schools are a gun free zone.”
In the neighboring state of Pennsylvania, the Butler Area School District, outside of Pittsburgh, had decided to arm security guards four days before the Connecticut shooting. But after the attack, the district accelerated the process, Superintendent Mike Strutt said.
The 14 schools in the district were already monitored by retired police officers. The school district got permission from a judge to allow the officers to carry personal firearms while on school grounds.
“We don’t think we’re security experts,” Strutt said. “We simply did what we thought was best for our school district.”
Additional reporting by Drew Singer in Pittsburgh; Editing by Greg McCune and Lisa Shumaker)