BUTLER COUNTY, Ohio – A group of parents in the Madison Local School District have sued the Board of Education and superintendent, alleging that the board’s April resolution authorizing armed staff in district schools violates an Ohio law requiring that armed school employees be trained and certified as peace officers. The parents are seeking an injunction blocking the district from arming teachers and other staff without the training required by law, as well as a court order requiring disclosure of policies and procedures for arming staff.
“Like many Madison parents, we have serious questions about the district’s resolution and how it will affect our kids’ safety,” said Erin Gabbard, a plaintiff and parent of two children attending Madison Elementary School. “We’ve asked repeatedly for answers, but the board is continuing to keep the public in the dark about important details, from requirements for storage to the rules of engagement.”
The suit, filed Wednesday afternoon, comes two months after several families delivered a legal letter to the district raising concerns about the process, legality and wisdom of the board’s resolution to arm teachers.
The plaintiffs, five parents with a collective 12 children in district schools, are represented by attorneys from Everytown for Gun Safety Support Fund and Gupta Wessler PLLC.
“The plain text of the relevant statutes is clear,” said Rachel Bloomekatz, a Columbus-based attorney with Gupta Wessler PLLC. “If school boards are going to authorize teachers or other staff to carry deadly weapons at school, they must have the extensive training that is specified in Ohio law. The Board is violating that requirement. And, in doing so, it’s putting our plaintiffs’ kids – and all Madison kids – at risk.”
“The parents bringing this lawsuit are proud members of the Madison community. They are saddened that the board has not meaningfully addressed their concerns about the risks posed by insufficiently-trained armed teachers, including the potential for accidental discharges and improper use of force,” said Alla Lefkowitz, deputy director of affirmative litigation for Everytown for Gun Safety. “Our clients expect their school district to comply with Ohio law.”
Filed in Butler County’s Court of Common Pleas, the lawsuit asks the court to declare that the board’s armed staff policy violates Ohio Revised Code § 109.78(D) and is therefore invalid. The statute prohibits public schools from employing personnel in a “position in which such person goes armed while on duty,” if the armed staff member has not “satisfactorily completed an approved basic peace officer training program” or does not have 20 years of law enforcement experience.
The lawsuit also seeks disclosure under Ohio’s Public Records act of the district’s policies and procedures concerning armed staff, so that parents can make informed decisions about whether the district is taking adequate steps to protect their children from accidents or missteps by armed employees. The suit seeks public records concerning the district’s standards for evaluating when to arm (and disarm) staff, policies for secure storage of firearms, rules of engagement and guidelines for the use of deadly force by school staff and research supporting the board’s decision to arm civilian staff, among others. To date, the board has withheld these records from parents, claiming they are exempt from public disclosure.