June 13, 2022

On June 13, 2022, Ohio Governor Mike DeWine signed House Bill 99 (HB 99) into law, which allows an employee of a school district to voluntarily be armed within the employing district’s school safety zone. The law will become effective on September 12, 2022.

The new law expressly states the intent was to overrule the Ohio Supreme Court’s decision in Gabbard v. Madison Local School Dist. Bd. of Edn. Gabbard involved a district policy allowing school staff to obtain a concealed carry permit and, based on the permit, be armed in the school safety zone.  Parents challenged the policy, and the case eventually reached the Ohio Supreme Court.  The Court sided with the parents citing the requirement set forth in the Ohio Revised Code that only individuals trained to be peace officers were permitted to be armed in a school zone.

HB 99 permits boards of education to authorize individuals to voluntarily be armed in a school safety zone if certain conditions are met. School employees seeking authorization to be armed in a school safety zone must complete, at a minimum, an initial training that does not exceed 24 hours that includes the following:

  • Training in mitigation techniques
  • Communications capabilities and collaboration techniques
  • Neutralization of potential threats and active shooters
  • Accountability
  • Reunification
  • Psychology of critical incidents
  • De-escalation techniques
  • Crisis intervention
  • Trauma and first aid care
  • The history and pattern of school shootings
  • Tactics of responding to critical incidents in schools

A re-qualification training that does not exceed eight hours is required on an annual basis.   Boards of education are permitted to require additional training.  School employees authorized to be armed on school property must submit to an annual criminal records check. If a board of education authorizes individuals to be armed on school property, the board must notify the public, in whatever manner is typically used for communication, that one or more persons have been authorized to be armed within that district.  Further, under HB 99, records pertaining to individuals who have completed the necessary training to convey deadly weapons or dangerous ordinance in a school safety zone are not public records pursuant to ORC 149.43. Finally, if a board of education authorizes an individual to convey deadly weapons or dangerous ordnance into a school safety zone, the board must pay all fees associated with the training the individual receives.

HB 99 also creates the Ohio School Safety and Crisis Center (OSSCC) as well as an Ohio Mobile Training Team, both of which are to be administered through the Ohio Department of Public Safety (ODPS). The Ohio Mobile Training Team will operate the OSSCC and provide services regarding safety and security for public and non-public schools.   The chief mobile training officer, as hired by the ODPS, must oversee the mobile training team, which will be composed of 16 regional mobile training officers. The mobile training team is charged with developing curriculum and providing instruction and training, including firearms training, to school employees seeking to satisfy the training requirements for being armed in a school safety zone.  The regional mobile training officers will also promote the use of the SaferOH tip line, and upon request, assist schools with other safety measures, emergency planning, and strategic communications.

Boards of education considering authorizing school employees to be armed on school property should consider liability issues that could arise based on a staff member’s actions with an authorized weapon. Scenarios to consider include the following:

  • A staff member negligently leaving the weapon accessible to students or other unauthorized persons
  • A staff member’s accidental (or uncalled for) discharge of the weapon
  • A staff member’s use of the weapon in a situation that did not require the use or threat of deadly force (e.g., to break up a fight)
  • Injuries resulting from the (rightful or wrongful) discharge of the weapon.

Prior to making a decision regarding authorizing staff members to be armed on school property, boards of education are encouraged to consult with the district’s liability insurance carrier to discuss the possible ramifications.

If you have questions, please reach out (contact information is below). We are happy to help with any challenges your district may be experiencing.

 

Ralph Lusher is an associate at Walter | Haverfield who focuses his practice on education law. He can be reached at rlusher@walterhav.com and at 614-246-2269.