TOLEDO, Ohio (AP) – A rural school district in Ohio is drawing attention with its plans to arm a handful of its nonteaching employees with handguns this year – perhaps even janitors.
Four employees in the Montpelier schools have agreed to take a weapons training course and carry their own guns inside the district’s one building, which houses 1,000 students in kindergarten through 12th grade, school officials said.
“It’s kind of a sign of the times,” Superintendent Jamie Grime said Friday.
The Toledo Blade reported the employees were janitors, but school officials would not confirm that to the Associated Press, saying only they are employees who don’t have direct supervision over the students in the northwest Ohio district.
The four employees who will carry guns all volunteered to take part, Grime said. The school plans to pay for them to attend a two-day training course.
“Putting a firearm in a school is a huge step,” Grime said. “We’re going to do it properly. These people need the proper training.”
The move comes as districts and lawmakers across the nation weigh how to protect students following the school massacre in Newtown, Conn., and after the National Rifle Association called for an armed officer in every U.S. school. The gunman in Newtown used a rifle to kill 20 students and six educators.
Lawmakers in South Carolina, Oklahoma, Missouri and South Dakota are looking into legislation that would allow teachers and other school employees to have guns.
Texas Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst called Friday for state-funded, specialized firearms training for teachers and administrators. School districts would decide who would carry weapons but not be required to participate, and training would include how to react during a shooting.
In Arizona’s Maricopa County, Sheriff Joe Arpaio has said he plans to post armed volunteers on school perimeters.
Residents in a Dayton, Ohio, suburb crowded into a school meeting this week to talk about whether staff members and teachers should be armed. Reaction was mixed, according to The Dayton Daily News.
“We need more good guys with guns. That’s the sad reality of the situation,” said Jim Rigano, a Springboro school board member.
Other states are trying clamp down on gun sales and bans on assault rifles.
In Montpelier, school officials began reviewing security plans after Newtown and decided teachers should not be armed because their first priority in an emergency should be locking doors and protecting students, Grime said. The school already has security cameras and locked doors, and requires visitors to be buzzed into the front entrance.
The proposal was not announced until just before the board voted unanimously Wednesday to arm a select group of employees after consulting with the local police chief and attorneys who reviewed Ohio’s concealed carry law. The law prohibits guns in schools except in a few cases, and allows education boards to authorize someone to carry a gun inside schools.
No members of the public spoke out on the measure at the meeting, board President Larry Martin told the Blade. Grime said three people attended.
A letter was sent out to parents after the vote. Only three complained, while close to 150 called or sent emails supporting the idea in Montpelier, a remote city of about 4,000 residents along Interstate 80 near the convergence of Ohio, Michigan and Indiana.
“It’s a place where people hold the Second Amendment close to their hearts,” the superintendent said.