Typically, WestChesterBuzz will not share news that takes place outside West Chester and Liberty townships, but sometimes a story comes along that could ultimately make an impact here.
Michael D. Clark reported this week that a fellow Butler County school district approved a new policy that will allow school principals and assistant principals to carry loaded handguns in schools. Butler County Sheriff Richard Jones applauded the school district and has been pushing for armed school officials since the Sandy Hook tragedy.
Do you think the Lakota School district will ever approve a similar policy?
Here is the story.
Armed school principals could be walking school hallways in August after a local board approved a new security policy.
Butler County’s Edgewood Schools will allow on a voluntary basis qualified school principals and assistant principals to carry loaded handguns in the district’s five schools starting this school year.
It’s a first for schools in Southwest Ohio and Northern Kentucky.
Butler County Sheriff Richard Jones, who has grabbed national headlines for pushing for armed school employees, hailed the Edgewood school board’s Monday vote as “breaking from the pack” of the region’s schools that have previously resisted the idea.
“I applaud Edgewood,” Jones said Tuesday. “This is the only one in our region, but they won’t be the last.”
Edgewood Superintendent Doug Lantz said the board voted 4-0 – with member Amy Ashcraft absent – to adopt the policy.
Edgewood becomes one of at least two of Ohio’s 614 school districts to allow armed employees. Earlier this month, Newcomerstown Schools in Tuscarawas County approved a similar policy.
John Charlton, spokesman for the Ohio Department of Education, said such decisions are allowed under the state’s local schools laws.
“We are a local control state and that is a local school board’s decision. They know what is best for their local community,” Charlton said.
Lantz said no school principals have relayed interest yet in pursuing the program.
But Jones said he has been contacted an Edgewood principal, who has a concealed carry permit and has expressed interest in the new program.
Edgewood’s actions are the latest in an accelerating regional wave of policy changes on keeping students safe in the wake of the Sandy Hook school shootings in December in Newtown, Conn.
In June, prompted by the Sandy Hook tragedy, Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine released a report on school safety urging all districts to update emergency floor plans made available to police.
DeWine initially said Jones’ idea to have armed substitute teachers in Butler County schools had merit when the sheriff proposed it. But recently DeWine declined to comment further on the proposal and Tuesday he refused to comment on Edgewood’s decision.
In Kentucky, two laws have passed that now require schools to review and revise their emergency management plans in cooperation with local law enforcement and train faculty on that plan. A third law requires that four emergency evacuation drills be practiced within the first 30 days of school each year and again in January.
Debbie Curry, mother of two Edgewood students, said she was “shocked” by the board’s action.
“It’s bringing tears to my eyes just thinking about it,’’ Currys aid. “I’m very saddened that our world has come to that.”
Edgewood school parent Chris Turner was also disappointed.
“Educators should educate. I don’t think people in schools are trained to handle guns and I think only law enforcement people should have guns,” Turners said.
But Edgewood board member Jim Miller said the national norm of designating school buildings as gun-free zones has endangered children because criminals know they will likely not be shot at if they open fire in schools.
“For too long schools have been an open invitation to people who want to do bad things to kids,” Miller said.
Under the policy, Edgewood’s 18 school administrators who want to carry a handgun during their school work would have to qualify under Ohio’s concealed carry laws.
Once they have earned a concealed carry license, they must be trained and certified by the Ohio Officer Training Academy unless they have 20 years as a law enforcement officer.
The Edgewood board would vote on each individual administrator as to whether they would be allowed to carry the weapon during their jobs on school grounds.
According to the policy, those administrators authorized by the board to carry a weapon will not be able to do so during events hosted by other school districts unless the school boards for those districts give prior, written permission.
Jones said he will work with Edgewood officials who volunteer for the program “to make sure they get what they need” in terms of training.