With school violence on the rise nationwide, the security and safety of students has prompted many districts to consider new avenues of protecting their staff and student body.
At the Dec. 17 regular board meeting, school board members heard about a program from Gina Powell and Ken Reynolds from American Bail Bonds in Galion through Buckeye Firearms Association to thoroughly train individuals who volunteer to carry guns in school.
“The first step is getting the permit in an eight-hour class through our business,” explained Reynolds. “That’s six hours of classroom time and two hours on the gun range.”
He emphasized this happens only after board approval for staff to ‘carry concealed,’ then training commences.
“That’s just the first step,” he added. “That doesn’t mean a teacher can bring their weapon onto school property. That’s a decision that has to be made by the board; you’ll have to put it up for a vote.”
What Reynolds offers is a presentation to a person (selected by the board) to relay the information to the board, who can then makes a decision whether or not to progress.
“If you decide to go forward with the program, which is listed on the Ohio Board of Education webpage, their program makes sure we follow all the rules that go with this,” Reynolds stated. “At that time, we can match you up with the funding that’s needed – at no cost to the school system – and match you up with an instructor.”
Reynolds said the school board still holds complete responsibility for their decision and, based on certain criteria, they choose staff members best suited to carry.
“It’s not ‘for’ every teacher,” Reynolds acknowledged. “This will meet your emergency preparedness requirements you have with the state – this will just be another tool you have.”
Powell added none of the students should know who is carrying a gun, because ‘that’s part of protecting them.’ They are offering this opportunity to Galion and Northmor schools and is open to any employee – not just teachers. She said they have had quite a few from Galion schools who are interested. Powell said some staff don’t want to ‘carry’ themselves but ‘wouldn’t mind other staff members carrying.’
Superintendent Chad Redmond asked about ‘biometric safes’ versus having the weapon on the person.
Powell said nerves and panic slow down reaction.
“When you’re under pressure it’s hard to stay calm and get to a safe and open it,”she responded. “When it’s immediately available, the reaction time is faster.” She said school violence can happen anywhere, and time is of the essence.
Reynolds concluded if they board assigns someone to gather information, they go through different kinds of ammunition and options. “It’s up to the school board how you do it,” he said.
Redmond said he and the board have had discussions about it, and it’s definitely a very controversial topic, with people on both sides of the fence. “In talking with the board, our concern is response time,” he said.
The topic will likely come up again at the next board of education meeting, scheduled for Jan. 12.