The following article originally appeared on News5Cleveland.com and is published in The Ohio Capital Journal under a content sharing agreement. Unlike other OCJ articles, it is not available for free republication by other news outlets because it is owned by WEWS in Cleveland.
Gov. Mike DeWine announced millions of dollars in public funding for school safety, while addressing a controversial bill that would allow educators to carry guns into schools.
A total of 1,183 K-12 schools across Ohio can apply for money to pay for security upgrades.
Schools will be able to apply for up to $50,000 to cover security items such as cameras, automatic door locks and visitor badge systems. The application should be released within the next two weeks.
“The goal is really to make sure that every school in the state, every school in the state meets basic safety needs,” DeWine said. “The people who work in our schools have historically done a phenomenal job of keeping our children safe.”
The thousands come from the nearly $47 million Ohio K-12 School Safety Grant Program. This program began in 2021 with $5 million from the 133rd General Assembly, but has since grown this year by another $100 million with support from the American Rescue Plan Act.
“Helping schools pay for important safety upgrades is just one part of our comprehensive approach to school safety which also supports the mental well-being of our children and the work of local law enforcement. to prevent crime.”
But all eyes were on House Bill 99.
“It got a lot of attention and let me say that in my opinion there are so many other things that are important with regard to school safety in addition to what this bill provides,” DeWine said. “And what the bill talks about, or at least what gets the most attention in this bill, of course, is the ability for schools to arm teachers.”
Subsection HB 99 would give a school board the ability to allow any adult in a school to carry a firearm with ambiguous training. The decision to do this led to dozens of national and international headlines, not least because of its proximity to the Uvalde mass shooting.
“Again, a lot of attention, the news media, has naturally been on this,” DeWine added. “All the other things you do every day, all the other things you do to keep kids safe are frankly much more important than that.”
Although the governor requires everyone to complete 24 hours of training, he says he doesn’t know how much of that training will be about holding a live firearm versus being instructed. The curriculum is under development. At this stage, a number of details have not been decided.
DeWine himself said he wished it hadn’t come to this.
“My preference would be for a police officer, a school safety officer,” the governor said at a press conference after the bill was signed, regarding his thoughts on guns in schools while he was Attorney General. “It was my personal opinion that I was expressing at that time and I still follow it.”
Despite the money invested in this program, the majority of schools in northeast Ohio say this proposal is not for them.
In a statement to News 5, Solon City School District said, “Our campus and school buildings are gun-free zones…We do not anticipate any change to this policy.
All different types of schools across the state are choosing not to, including cities, suburbs, and more rural areas. Some have not yet decided.
“At this time, the district and the school board are simply monitoring the progress of Bill 99 and seeing what the implications are for the school district,” Chardon Schools Superintendent Michael Hanlon said. “We haven’t made any decision on that at this stage.”
According to News 5 records, only a few schools across the state have decided or are leaning toward arming staff, including the exempt Newcomerstown Village Schools in Tuscarawas County.
Mary Davis, former executive director of the Ohio Peace Officer Training Academy, has been selected to serve as the training chief overseeing the OSSC’s new Security and Crisis Division, said also announced the governor.
She will be responsible for developing and training school personnel whose districts choose to allow certain employees to be armed on school property.
At least four of the 24 hours must be “scenario-based” or simulated training exercises, but it is unclear whether this must be with a live weapon. Although it is not specified how much time is required, it is necessary to undergo “tactical training on live firearms”.
On dismissing DeWine after his announcement at the top, his team replied that it would “definitely” be more than two minutes.
The two-minute comment comes from News 5 stating that technically, since the bill does not state how long a person must practice with a live firearm, it could range from two minutes to four hours.
“The 24 hours there will be a strong influence on how that individual handles the weapon,” an official said. “And there are people who are not going to pass that.”
Failing a test is not completely uncommon in Ohio.
In 2021, 38 out of 5,600 schools did not complete their annual emergency management test, News 5 Investigators found.
RELATED: More than 30 schools fail required emergency tests in Ohio
Paramedics are designed to test a school’s “response” procedures as outlined in the emergency operations plan.
In a statement, a state spokesperson wrote, “We understand the delay was likely due to the pandemic. The OSSC is working with schools to try to achieve compliance even if they are delayed to ensure schools are prepared for emergencies.
The state has not released the names or locations of schools that failed the tests, citing an exemption that allows agencies to withhold information considered “security records.”
HB 99 has annual requalification training, but it cannot exceed eight hours. That being said, the bill does not prohibit a school district from requiring additional training – it simply cannot be mandated by the state.
Another question for DeWine concerned Senator Frank Hoagland’s firearms training business. In June, News 5 found that the Mingo Junction Republican, who drafted the bill, could benefit financially.
RELATED: An Ohio lawmaker who drafted a bill requiring gun training for teachers owns a gun training company
The senator owns a company called START, which stands for Special Tactics and Rescue Training. This is a firearms training and threat management company that specializes in school safety training.
When asked if Hoagland’s business could benefit, DeWine and his team weren’t sure. Local school districts would make those decisions locally, the state would simply approve them, they said.
When News 5 said it was an ethical issue, the governor and his team nodded and another state official laughed.
Follow WEWS State House Reporter Morgan Trau on Twitter and Facebook.
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