The Ohio Education Association is opposed to the concept of arming teachers as a means to discourage school shootings.
Instead, the organization urges more attention be paid to mental health-related programs, as well as funding for districts that want trained response personnel on the premises.
The OEA officially opposed the idea of armed teachers in a school safety policy released at the end of 2013. Its official stance has not changed, Michele Prater, OEA spokeswoman, said Friday.
The organization, which represents 124,000 educators in schools, colleges and universities, reaffirmed its policy in response to the national debate and comments by President Donald Trump that followed the Feb. 14 shooting of 17 students and adults in Parkland, Florida.
“As state lawmakers and local school
boards consider ways in which schools can be made safer, we
urge them to make sure there is adequate
funding for school
districts that may want to have resource officers or local law enforcement in their schools,” according to the statement. “That’s a much better way to go than arming school employees.”
The policy also states teachers and other school employees “should not be asked to serve a dual role as educators and school safety personnel armed with weapons.”
“This position is consistent with the views of the law enforcement community that putting guns in the hands of school employees who have other responsibilities is not the solution to improving school safety,” according to the policy.
A Facebook posting of the policy has drawn hundreds of reactions from OEA members and the public. The vast majority of members are opposed to the concept, Prater said.
“Members are very vocal on the subject,” she said.
The Ohio School Board Association believes the concept is one that needs to be discussed by individual districts, Megan Greulich, staff attorney for the OSBA, said Friday.
“School safety is a local issue, and arming staff can be one part of a greater conversation on the subject,” she said.
Ohio is a “diverse” state, and what might not be feasible in one district may be an option in another, Greulich said.
“Districts should consider having a conversation with their local law enforcement,” she said. “Not one size fits all. How we address the issue of school safety can vary.”
Local educators are opposed to the idea of armed teachers. Lisa Love is president of the Ashtabula Area Teachers Association, which represents an estimated 275 people, she said.
“Nobody really wants to be armed,” Love said. “They’re here to be teachers.”
Ohio’s school districts would be better served by hiring more social/emotional health counselors “so we can meet the needs of all students,” Love said. More resource officers would also help.
“There are not enough people in buildings who can deal with kids with mental health issues,” she said. “Arming us won’t make it any better.”
Joel Specht, a teacher in the Conneaut Area City Schools district, is president of the Conneaut Education Association. Specht said the concept of armed teachers has not been discussed formally among members and therefore he could not speak on behalf of the CEA on the subject.
Specht’s personal opinion is the idea would be “a waste.”
“I would rather see money spent on hiring more teachers (to reduce class sizes) and mental health people,” he said. “How much (weapons) training does a police officer go through? The military train to use weapons for months.
“It’s not appropriate,” Specht said. “I don’t want to be packing heat. I’m a teacher.”