Images of a school hallway, with students in the hallway and on a staircase

An appeal about arming teachers and school staff has attracted amicus briefs from the state attorney general, school boards, education groups, teachers, professors, law enforcement, and two cities.

Images of a school hallway, with students in the hallway and on a staircase

An appeal about arming teachers and school staff has attracted amicus briefs from the state attorney general, school boards, education groups, teachers, professors, law enforcement, and two cities.

A Butler County school board maintains a state law doesn’t define the training required for school teachers and staff who are authorized to carry weapons on school grounds. A group of parents in the school district disagree.

The law at the core of the dispute states that no Ohio educational institution is permitted to employ someone as a special police officer, security guard, “or other position in which such person goes armed while on duty” unless the person completes an approved basic peace officer training or has 20 years of active duty as a peace officer.

The appeal has drawn widespread attention, and many groups have filed amicus briefs. The Ohio Attorney General’s Office and 15 Ohio school boards back the Madison Local School District Board of Education’s position. Supporting the parents’ view are the Fraternal Order of Police, Ohio Education Association, Ohio Federation of Teachers, and the cities of Cincinnati and Columbus, among others.

The Ohio Supreme Court will hear the case next week during its first oral arguments of 2021.

School Board Implements Policy to Permit Armed Teachers, Staff

In 2018, the Madison school board adopted a resolution to allow designated staff to carry concealed weapons on school grounds. The school board took the step after a student with a gun injured four students in the Madison Junior-Senior High School cafeteria two years earlier.

While it is a crime in Ohio to possess or “convey” a deadly weapon in a school zone, the state legislature made an exception for people who receive a school board’s written authorization to carry weapons. The statute, R.C. 2923.122, protects those with board authorization from criminal prosecution.

The Madison school board stated specific requirements in its policy for teachers, administrators, and staff it authorizes to carry a concealed firearm. They must have a valid concealed handgun license, complete at least 24 hours of active-shooter response training, and obtain a handgun qualification certificate. The authorized staff also must pass a mental health exam, a criminal background check, and an annual drug screening.

Parents Challenge Training Needed for Armed Employees

Five Madison parents, including Erin Gabbard, sued the school district. The Butler County Common Pleas Court ruled in the school board’s favor, determining that the peace officer training mandated by R.C. 109.78(D) applies only to those who serve in law enforcement roles at the schools, not to teachers and staff.

The Twelfth District Court of Appeals reversed the decision and concluded that school staff authorized to carry weapons must meet R.C. 109.78(D)’s training requirements. The school board appealed to the Ohio Supreme Court.

School Board Asserts Training in State Law for Security Staff Only

Madison Local argues that R.C. 109.78 applies only to a special police officer, security guard, or school resource officer employed by the school. School staff – such as a librarian, algebra teacher, or custodian – aren’t “armed while on duty” when authorized to carry a weapon because being armed isn’t part of their regular job duties, the school board contends. Describing the training in the law as “too onerous” and “wholly unrealistic” for teachers and staff, the board’s brief maintains that the legislature left the training and qualifications for those authorized to carry a weapon to the school board.

The attorney general and the 15 school boards agree, arguing the extensive training in the law applies only to school security personnel.

State lawmakers considered legislation last year to explicitly exclude armed teachers and staff from the training, but the bill didn’t pass.

Parents Maintain Staff Allowed to Carry Weapons Are ‘Armed while on Duty’

The parents counter that the law calling for training of employees in educational institutions applies to all school staff, not only school security personnel. Teachers and staff participate in many activities that aren’t delineated in their job responsibilities, the parents note, pointing to those who chaperone dances or lead after-school clubs. Although teachers and staff authorized by a school board to carry a weapon weren’t hired for that purpose, they are “armed while on duty,” and the training mandated by R.C. 109.78 applies to them, the parents maintain.

Noting that they don’t oppose guns, the parents express concerns about the safety of their children if insufficiently trained school staff are carrying firearms on school grounds. Extensive training is needed because it “bear(s) on whether a teacher can safely control a gun at school without fatal accidents and respond appropriately in stressful, chaotic, situations,” their brief states.

The Fraternal Order of Police also stresses the importance of adequate training for armed teachers and staff.

Oral Argument Details

The Supreme Court will consider three cases on Jan. 12 and four more, including Gabbard v. Madison Local School District Board of Education, on Jan. 13. Oral arguments begin each day at 9 a.m.

Because of the coronavirus health crisis, the Court will hold its session by videoconference. The arguments will be streamed live online at sc.ohio.gov and broadcast live, and archived, on The Ohio Channel.

In addition to these highlights, the Court’s Office of Public Information released preview articles today about each case, available through the case-name links.

Tuesday, Jan. 12

In State v. Worley, a Fulton County man appeals his convictions and death sentence for the 2016 murder of a woman who disappeared when she was bicycling home from her boyfriend’s house. The man argues that the evidence doesn’t tie him directly to the woman’s murder and the case was circumstantial. He also believes his right to a fair trial was violated when prospective jurors mentioned a conviction from 30 years earlier.

A Lake County attorney objects to a recommended disbarment for criminal acts that took place before he became a lawyer. In Disciplinary Counsel v. Polizzi, the lawyer pleaded guilty to sex crimes based on relationships he had with two teenage students when he was a high school teacher from 2006 to 2010. Between the time he left teaching and the date of his , he earned a law degree, passed the bar, and practiced law until he was indicted. Rather than the disbarment recommended by the Board of Professional Conduct, the lawyer seeks an indefinite suspension and the right to seek reinstatement once he completes a 28-year prison sentence.

Wednesday, Jan. 13

A longstanding critic of the Ohio State University Airport’s property tax exemption has challenged the designation for the 325-acre parcel containing the airport’s core operations. The critic alleges 90 percent of the property is used for private, non-university purposes, and has significantly changed since it was originally granted property tax-exempt status in 1943. In O’Keefe v. McClain, the university supports the tax commissioner’s determination that every facet of the airport is used as part of OSU’s educational and entrepreneurial training programs, and that the commercial use of the property doesn’t disqualify it from exemption.

In its 2018 Blackstone v. Moore decision, the Court developed a three-part test to determine if the information about an oil and gas interest contained in a property deed is sufficient for the mineral rights owner to preserve their rights. In Erickson v. Morrison, the appellate court ruled that since the reference to the mineral rights ownership that appeared in the landowner’s deed doesn’t state either the name of the person who originally reserved the mineral rights or to whom it was granted, it didn’t meet the standards in Blackstone to be valid. The heirs of a deceased mineral rights owner argue the deed contains enough information to block the land owner from extinguishing their mineral rights.

A Delaware County lawyer of felony theft for misappropriating funds from a mentally incompetent client faces disbarment for 37 violations of the rules governing the professional conduct of Ohio lawyers. In Disciplinary Counsel v. Burchinal, the Board of Professional Conduct found that in addition to committing theft, the lawyer repeatedly failed to provide services for which clients paid him to complete and he lied to clients, their families, judges, and disciplinary investigators. The attorney suggests an indefinite suspension, maintaining that the board fails to adequately account for him taking full responsibility for his conduct, paying restitution to his former clients, and expressing significant remorse.

In re Judicial Campaign Complaint against Falter involves a complaint against a candidate for Hamilton County Common Pleas Court in the 2020 Republican primary. The candidate sent a letter to absentee voters stating that her opponent moved to Hamilton County in 2017 for a judicial appointment by the governor. However, her opponent moved to the county three years earlier for a different reason. The candidate, who notified voters of the error, objects to a public reprimand imposed by a five-judge commission that reviewed the dispute. She states she thought the information was correct and didn’t act with reckless disregard for the truth.

 

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