Ohio is making it easier for teachers to carry firearms in classrooms
A MARTINEZ, HOST:
In Ohio, lawmakers are slashing the amount of training needed for teachers to carry firearms in the classroom. Republicans say it'll make schools safer. But some educators worry it could lead to more dangerous confrontations. Ohio Public Radio's Andy Chow reports.
ANDY CHOW, BYLINE: Teachers in Ohio have been allowed to carry guns in schools so long as they complete 700 hours of mandatory training, the same required of police recruits. Lawmakers argued that made it nearly impossible to arm teachers, so they drastically cut that training requirement down to 24 hours. In signing it into law, Republican Governor Mike DeWine stressed that the decision to arm teachers is still up to local school boards.
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MIKE DEWINE: We're trying to layer this in and give every school the tools that they need. Ultimately, that school is going to have to ensure the safety of the child. They're going to have to do the best they can. My job is to give them the best I can to help them do that.
CHOW: The bill was signed less than three weeks after the mass shooting in Uvalde, Texas, where a gunman killed 21 people, including 19 children, inside an elementary school. Julie Holderbaum has taught high school English in Ohio for 26 years. She thinks arming more teachers crosses a line.
JULIE HOLDERBAUM: If the problem is violence in schools and people bringing guns in the schools, I do not think the answer is more guns.
CHOW: Scott DiMauro heads the Ohio Education Association, the state's largest teacher's union. He worries that the new law could make schools less safe.
SCOTT DIMAURO: We don't believe that educators should be put in a dual role, where they are responsible primarily for educating children and at the same time for serving as armed security guards in our schools.
CHOW: Instead, DiMauro says Ohio could do more to help coordinate relationships between schools and local law enforcement, put more resources into mental health counselors and enact what he calls commonsense gun regulation. Governor DeWine is also calling for more funding for securing school buildings and offering more training so teachers can recognize behavioral health issues. Teacher Julie Holderbaum thinks educators could be put in impossible scenarios where a split-second decision to take action or not could have dire consequences.
HOLDERBAUM: So I just feel like we're damned if we do and damned if we don't. And if teachers start using weapons in schools, it's not going to be good for teachers. And I don't think it will be safer.
CHOW: According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, eight states now allow school employees to carry firearms in the classroom if they complete a training program. There's no word yet on how many districts in Ohio will embrace lower training requirements for teachers to carry guns in schools.
For NPR News, I'm Andy Chow in Columbus. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.