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Ohio Supreme Court: School district firearms policy can go on, pending appeal

Susan Tebben, Ohio Capital Journal

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The Ohio Supreme Court has said a school district can go ahead with a firearm policy for personnel while the state’s highest court decides on their case.

The Ohio Supreme Court granted Madison Local School District’s request to allow the implementation of a policy allowing trained personnel including teachers to be armed on the Butler County district’s grounds Wednesday.

The amount of training the personnel must receive is still up for debate as the Ohio Senate considers a bill to lower that training level.

But just as they allowed the motion, they also sped up the schedule for their own deliberation.

“No stipulations or requests for extension of time shall be permitted, and the clerk of court shall refuse to file any stipulations or requests for extension of time,” the court said in a filing.

The district asked for an expedited timeline because of the upcoming school year, which started Aug. 13. The appeals court decision had “no practical effect” before then, because Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine had already closed schools due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Attorneys for the school district parents who filed the initial lawsuit said a last-minute halt to the appeals court decision “threatens to upend the expectations of parents who have used the intervening months to make time-sensitive decisions — and commitments — about how to safely educate their children this fall.”

“While parents face a variety of safety concerns when deciding how to school their children in a global pandemic, Madison’s last-minute request would add to the confusion and concerns that parents are currently grappling with, and have already made decisions about,” attorneys for the families wrote in a response to the motion, filed Aug. 12.

The parents disagreed with the district’s argument that allowing the school to implement the policy before the supreme court makes its final decision is “necessary to prevent irreparable injury.”

While both parties want to avoid a school shooting like the one that sparked the policy in the first place, attorneys for the parents said, being barred from implementing the firearm policy “does not prevent Madison from deploying almost any conceivable option to enhance school safety; it simply bars the use of armed staff whose few days of training fall far short of the state mandate.”

The school district has 20 days to file their arguments with the court, and the families have 20 days following that to respond.

Chief Justice Maureen O’Connor and Justice Michael Donnelly disagreed with the decision to expedite the case and temporarily halt the appeals court decision, and Justice Patrick Fischer noted he would have specifically denied the portion of the motion to allow the district’s firearms policy.

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