Education has been a hot topic across Ohio and the country during the pandemic, with schools reopening still in various stages depending on location. With the reopening of more schools comes the ever-present threats to students and staff.

Gabbard v. Madison Local School District Board of Education

All eyes will be on the Ohio Supreme Court as it considers the case of Gabbard v. Madison Local School District Board of Education, et al. argued in January 2021. The decision in this case will be far-reaching throughout the State of Ohio. Should they prevail, gun control advocates will likely be citing this case across the nation, as more and more school districts contemplate arming teachers and staff—with five districts already doing so in Tuscarawas County alone.

The Path to the Ohio Supreme Court

The crux of the argument at the moment stems from the 2018 decision by the Madison Local School District in Middletown, Butler County, to allow teachers to carry firearms in schools upon successful completion of Buckeye Firearms Association’s FASTER training program, which stands for “Faculty/Administrator Safety Training & Emergency Response.” However, the anti-gun movement intervened through the Michael Bloomberg-backed gun control organization Everytown for Gun Safety (“Everytown”).

Everytown filed a lawsuit against the Madison School District to stop the proposed authorization from going into effect. Judge Charles Pater of the Butler County Common Pleas Court ruled in favor of the school district, and Everytown appealed the decision to the 12th District Court of Appeals. The District Court overruled the lower court and instituted a permanent injunction against the school district. In doing so, they erroneously relied on language in the Ohio Revised Code which they said required all school security officers (who the Court deemed as anyone who carried a firearm for protection within a school, including teachers) to receive Ohio Peace Officer Training Academy (“OPOTA”) training before they could be armed in school safety zones. Such training requires more than 700 hours, versus the 26 hours of training provided by the FASTER program. It was an obvious blow to the district’s decision, as 700-plus hours of training is realistically prohibitive. Madison schools appealed the matter to the Ohio Supreme Court. We are all eagerly anticipating the outcome in the coming months.

Legislative Support to Arm Teachers

As the case wound its way through the courts, Republican Senator Bill Coley, who represents the area in question, introduced Senate Bill 317, which would have ended the debate once and for all by specifically exempting teachers and staff from the requisite OPOTA training and allowed for successful completion of the FASTER course to meet the standard for authorized school safety zone carry. The bill passed the Ohio Senate in 2020 but failed to find final approval in the House before it died in the last legislative session.

As such, the Ohio Supreme Court’s decision is even more important than ever. We will keep a close eye on this evolving issue, as it will have far-reaching effects for the millions of people who endeavor to provide a safer place for their children to learn.

As always, if you have any questions about arming teachers in Ohio, please feel free to reach out to U.S. LawShield and ask to speak to your Independent Program Attorney.


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