In the wake of the lethal mass shooting at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., last month and the shooting at the Taft Union High School in Taft, Calif., Thursday, gun violence is at the forefront of national consciousness. The main question -- "What can we do to prevent gun violence in schools?" -- is a valid one, and there are many possible answers. Some examples are police officers working undercover, armed national guards, or teachers armed with concealed weapons.
The idea of arming school employees is compelling, and the Montpelier Exempted Village School District in Ohio is planning to arm janitors in response to Sandy Hook shootings, according to the Blade newspaper in Toledo.
The district's board of education passed a resolution that will allow certain school employees to carry concealed weapons. These employees will receive firearms training, including a concealed-carry training class and a two-day training course at the Tactical Defense Institute in West Union. In a memo addressed to the Montpelier community, Superintendent Jamison J. Grime discussed the decision to arm school employees.
According to Grime, “We take great pride in ensuring that our facility is safe and secure but the BOE and administration believed that this proactive measure would substantially enhance and strengthen our security efforts.” Grime said the school district worked with law enforcement to develop the plan.
The plan to arm school employees could go into effect rather quickly. Grime noted in the memo: “No one will be carrying a concealed firearm for at least one month. It will take time to properly train people and this must be completed before the plan will be enacted.”
Speaking about school security in the wake of the Sandy Hook shooting, Grime told the Blade: “Sitting back and doing nothing and hoping it doesn’t happen to you is just not good policy anymore. There is a need for schools to beef up their security measures.”
The idea to arm school employees was first discussed six months ago, school board President Larry Martin told the Blade. The Sandy Hook tragedy only expedited the desire to put the matter to a vote by the school board. The resolution was unanimously passed on Thursday.
In addition to discussing the plan with police officials, the school first had to determine whether a school could legally arm janitors or any other employees. Grime said, after consulting with legal counsel, the school board found it had the authority to permit employees to carry concealed weapons within a school as long as those individuals passed all the requisite training.
Four janitors are to be armed at Montpelier Exempted Village Schools. While the school district will not pay for the guns themselves, the janitors will be paid stipends, the Blade reported. All the janitors involved volunteered to carry concealed weapons.
Ohio is just the first state where a school district has passed a resolution to arm employees. Legislators in Missouri, Oklahoma, South Carolina, and South Dakota are looking into possibly arming school employees, the Associated Press reported.
Meanwhile, Texas Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst requested a state-funded training program that would instruct teachers and other school employees in how to handle a school-shooting situation, AP reported.
With the national debate on gun control yet to be settled, expect to hear plenty of discussion on school safety in the coming months.