Appeals Court Reverses Lower Court Decision and Rules that Madison Local School District’s Program to Arm Staff Must be Halted
Decision Calls into Question the Legality of Armed Teacher Programs in School Districts Across Ohio
BUTLER COUNTY, Ohio — Everytown Law, the litigation arm of Everytown for Gun Safety Support Fund, today responded after an Ohio appeals court ordered the Madison Local School District to halt a program allowing teachers to carry hidden, loaded weapons in classrooms with minimal training. The Ohio 12th District Court of Appeals found that the relevant state law is “plain and unambiguous” and that school districts cannot employ staff who “go armed while on duty” unless they have completed an approved basic peace officer training program or have 20 years of active duty as a peace officer. The Madison Local School District’s 24-hour training requirement for armed staff fell well short of the rigorous training required under state law (which typically spans over 700 hundred hours), the Appeals Court held, and directed that a permanent injunction be issued halting the program. The school’s armed staff program was challenged by parents in the school district.
Though the Appeals Court’s order applies only to the Madison Local School District, it calls into question the legality of armed school staff programs statewide, many of which use the same training provided by FASTER Saves Lives, an affiliate of the Buckeye Firearms Association. The ruling specifically rejects the notion—advanced by FASTER and other proponents of armed school staff—that Ohio schools can circumvent training requirements set by state law simply by labeling their armed staff “volunteers.”
“Ohio’s training standards protect students, teachers, and staff,” said Alla Lefkowitz, director of affirmative litigation for Everytown Law. “Complying with them isn’t optional. It’s the law. As the court found, the parents we represent have every right to expect their school district to comply with Ohio law.”
“For good reason, Ohio requires that teachers undergo extensive training before carrying hidden, loaded handguns in classrooms,” said Rachel Bloomekatz, a Columbus-based attorney. “As the court recognized, the district’s program fails to meet the state’s clear requirements. We’re pleased by today’s ruling and believe it will improve the safety of students, teachers and staff.”
In a concurring opinion, the Appeals Court’s presiding judge addressed the issue of labeling armed staff as “volunteers,” writing:
The legislature intended for Madison Local authorized staff to comply with the rigorous training and peace officer experience required by R.C. 109.79 before carrying a firearm into a school safety zone. By requiring more than 700 hours of training or 20 years of peace officer experience, the legislature expressed its clear intent that only individuals of the highest caliber, with significant training and experience, be permitted to carry a firearm on school grounds. Madison Local simply cannot circumvent the legislature’s intent by labeling authorized staff as volunteers. (HENDRICKSON, P.J., concurring)
In a separate portion of the opinion, the Appeals Court affirmed a district court ruling that allowed the school district to withhold redacted mental health evaluations of armed staff from public disclosure.
The parents sued the Madison Local School District’s Board of Education and superintendent in 2018, seeking an injunction to block the district from arming staff without the training required by law, as well as a court order requiring disclosure of policies and procedures for arming staff. In 2019, the lower court denied the request for an injunction but ordered the release of the school district’s policies and procedures for armed staff, allowing the district to withhold only the psychological evaluations of armed staff that remain the subject of ongoing litigation. As a Cincinnati Enquirer story reported, a “review of hours of those depositions and hundreds of court documents found discrepancies in what school officials told the public and what they actually did.” The released documents, along with the court filings can be found here.