If you’ve been following the media hysterics of the recent legislation in Ohio that allows for armed teachers, you’ve probably noticed nearly identical talking points from mainstream media outlets. Headlines like “Ohio Slashes Gun Training Requirements for Teachers” or “New Ohio Law Dramatically Reduces the Amount of Training for Armed Teachers” might make you think you’re hearing the prologue of a Shakespearian tragedy rather than a local news story. The sheer number of headlines, bylines, and teasers on this “shocking new legislation” and its alleged effect on the safety of our school children is almost comical if you understand the history behind armed teachers in Ohio.
Part I of this series discusses Ohio’s prior law and the court ruling that stopped armed teacher programs in schools.
Ohio had, for many years, permitted K-12 teachers and other staff members to be armed for the protection of students if they so chose, as long as they were approved by the school board. Usually, this approval was predicated on some sort of training. Some schools only required a basic concealed carry class while others required a more rigorous training program tailored for school employees. An example of such a training program is F.A.S.T.E.R. (Faculty & Staff Training & Emergency Response). This program is run by the Buckeye Firearms Foundation which is a non-profit educational organization. Through the program, school faculty and staff are trained to stop a violent encounter and render first-aid immediately. The F.A.S.T.E.R. training requires its students to shoot to a higher standard than that of Ohio police officer trainees.
One of Ohio’s most well-known public schools to allow armed teachers and staff was the Madison Local School District in Butler County. Following a shooting at a Madison Local school in 2016, the school board voted in 2018 to allow armed staff.
Michael Bloomberg backed Everytown for Gun Safety, an anti-gun activist organization, subsidized a lawsuit and the subsequent appeals of several parents against the Madison Local Schools. The parents alleged that the teachers were not trained to the standard required by the Ohio Revised Code and therefore not permitted to be armed.
In a deeply flawed ruling, the Ohio Supreme Court, in a 4-3 decision, held that teachers and other school staff members must not only have firearms training to be armed in the school but they must also complete the 737-hour Ohio Peace Officers Training Academy (“OPOTA”) or similar training. The majority opinion was full of far-reaching grasps, looking for ways to ban legal means for arming teachings despite the clear intent of the Ohio legislature.
Nowhere in Ohio law did a training requirement exist beyond requiring the 8- hour concealed handgun license training necessary to get an Ohio concealed handgun permit.
The majority of the Court agreed with the Bloomberg camp that the statute required teachers to complete OPOTA. Included in the 737 hours of OPOTA curriculum are 60 hours of firearms training, including shotgun courses that are almost wholly irrelevant to an armed teacher. Also, this training requires 125 hours in traffic enforcement and accident investigations, 24 hours of driving, 36 hours of arrest, search, and seizure training, and the list could go on. Clearly, little of this training is relevant to an armed teacher and even more so, the irony to this ruling is that it’s obvious that Bloomberg and Co. had little interest in well-trained and armed teachers; they sought only to cripple the armed teacher programs in Ohio.
The Ohio Supreme Court ruling did just that; it gutted every single armed teacher program in Ohio because in no universe was it possible to send a teacher through the 737 hours of training required to get an OPOTA certificate while maintaining a full-time job as a teacher, school administrator, or other school employees.
Following this ruling, schools across Ohio were forced to disband the programs. The Ohio Legislature corrected this ruling by enacting a new law that explicitly set out new training requirements for armed personnel in K-12 schools. House Bill 99 as signed into law by Ohio’s governor Mike DeWine not only allows teachers and staff members to once again go armed into their schools, but it enacted the first established training program and standards for those individuals.
To be continued in Part II will be a discussion about the new legislation just signed into law in Ohio and its training requirements, along with training opportunities as Ohio moves forward to safer schools.
 Gabbard v. Madison Local School Dist. Bd. of Edn., 165 Ohio St.3d 390, 2021-Ohio-2067.