Attorney General 'open' to trained school staff being armed

by marc kovac | capital bureau chief Published:

Columbus -- Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine indicated last week that he is open to local school boards arming trained teachers, principals and staff as a means of responding quickly to shooting incidents.

"If I was on a school board ... I would seriously consider having someone in that school who may be an ex-police officer, someone who has significant training, who had access to a gun in school," he said. "But you'd have to be very careful about it. I'm not saying everyone in school should be armed, but someone who knows exactly what they are doing and who has that gun under lock and key but who can get to it instantly out of their office. That's something that I think I would at least debate and talk about in a school."

But, he added, "Each school is different. Each school has unique needs. And each school has the culture of that community."

DeWine made the comments during a press conference Dec. 19, where he announced plans to develop training for teachers to respond to shooting incidents, like the one that occurred in Newtown, Conn., that left more than two dozen people, most of them young children, dead.

DeWine called teachers "the real first responders" in such shooting incidents, and "it makes sense to be training them as well as law enforcement officers."

Michael Sawyers, acting superintendent for public instruction for the state, added, "Safety is paramount. Parents and guardians have to believe their children will be safe at school. ... Although we can't prevent everything, as illustrated by Connecticut, it's our responsibility to do all we can on a daily basis to ensure kids come to school and have a safe, productive learning environment."

Ohio schools already are required under state law to submit safety plans to the attorney general's office for use by law enforcement and other emergency responders who are dealing with incidents.

Earlier this summer, DeWine chastised more than 150 schools that had failed to submit plans. He said Dec. 19 that he expected most to have plans on file in coming weeks.

However, of the nearly 4,900 plans the office has in hand, most fall short of guidelines released by in recent days by DeWine's office and a task force that studied the issue, meaning the details are inadequate.

DeWine said his office will be working with schools to improve the plans.

"We cannot, unless we barricade every school in this country, assure that there's never going to be a problem," he said. "But what we can do and what is our moral obligation to do as citizens and as elected officials, is to minimize the risk, increase our odds of the kids surviving and decrease the odds of something happening."

Marc Kovac is the Dix Capital Bureau Chief. Email him at mkovac@dixcom.com or on Twitter at OhioCapitalBlog.

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