Time to talk: Arming school personnel should be discussed now

An Ohio school plan risk manager says now is the time for everyone involved to start a serious discussion on the topic of authorizing school employees to possess weapons on school property.

“Research shows that people that take a proactive approach survive more often,” Travis Thompson told approximately 30 people who attended a forum at Wapakoneta High School. “Nothing will get done if we have our head in the sand.”

While the Sandy Hook shootings pushed the issue back to the forefront, the warning signs of a growing trend were already visible, Thompson said. He presented stats that showed between 1978-2001, there were a total of 27 school shootings in the United States. Since the Columbine shooting in 1999, that number has jumped to 125 in 14 short years.

“There is no rhyme or reason to these shootings,” Thompson said. “They just want carnage.”

Also, the average distance between the shooter and the victim in school shootings is two feet, or point blank range. The average shooting lasts only eight minutes and in the majority of the cases the shooter commits suicide.

He said based on these numbers, it is important for schools to be prepared and have plans in place until help can arrive.

Thompson discussed  the possibility of schools developing Alert-Lockdown-Inform-Counter-Evaluate (ALICE) plans. ALICE plans have gained popularity but have stirred debate on their effectiveness.

He said while an ALICE plan provides options of maximum survival chances and provides knowledge so people can make informed decisions, he would like to see the program nationalized.

Thompson also discussed a letter from Buckeye Firearms Association Chair James Irvine to state Attorney General Mike DeWine, in which he asked DeWine about the legality of arming school officials.

DeWine said in the letter that Ohio law did not prevent schools from arming officials, but who could be armed is a matter of debate.

“But if that teacher is required to, in essence, become a security guard as well, the teacher must either have a basic peace officer certification or must have 20 years of experience as a law enforcement officer,” DeWine wrote in the letter.

DeWine said the matter was in need of legislative review and that he hoped the General Assembly would address the issue.

Thompson said while something needs to be done, everyone needs to be involved in the discussion as safety measures are organized.

“This is a much more broad discussion than arming our teachers,” Thompson said. “It’s sad we have to do this, but it has to be done.”

He discussed issues including if a teacher is permuted to carry a weapon for personal defense if she has a concealed carry license and brings a gun to school and what employees should be allowed to carry.

While weapons on campus may produce intended consequences of an increased response time and would be a deterrent to potential gunman, he discussed unintended consequences such as increased liability, the potential of accidents and mistaken identity.

Auglaize County Sheriff Al Solomon said it was a serious issue that needed the public’s attention, but he felt Auglaize County schools have made great strides in preparedness with the issue on the forefront.

“The schools are doing something,” Solomon said. “All of the schools in the county are better prepared now than they were.”

Solomon said arming school personnel should also be discussed further.

“There are a lot of things to consider,” Solomon said. “I think it is something that should be up to the school. I think legislation has to make it clear who can do it. I think the main goal is that everyone understands the reasons behind something having to be done. It’s to protect the kids.”

Wapakoneta City Schools Operations Direcctor Mike Watt said arming school personnel or taking other precautions is something to be discussed.

“I have my own personnel views, but it is something for every school district to consider,” Watt said.

Watt said the school district has already taken steps in making the school safer and is constantly reviewing other safety procedures.