On Wednesday, the Ohio Supreme Court determined that school employees may not carry firearms unless they have peace officer training or 20 years of experience as a peace officer (Gabbard v. Madison Local School Dist. School Bd. of Edn., Slip Opinion No. 2021-Ohio-2067). Chief Justice Maureen O'Connor joined the three Democrat justices (Justice Jennifer Brunner, Justice Michael Donnelly and Justice Melody Stewart) in a decision which found that a Madison Local School District policy allowing armed staff violates state law.
In the 4-3 decision, the Supreme Court struck down a 2018 Madison Local School District policy that allowed employees to carry firearms as long as they met certain requirements including having a valid concealed carry license, complete at least 24 hours of active-shooter response training and pass a mental health exam, drug screening and criminal background check. The policy was enacted two years after a school shooting at Madison Junior-Senior High School that injured four students in 2016.
The Twelfth District Court of Appeals ruled last March in Gabbard v. Madison Local School District Board of Education[JH1] that Ohio law requires anyone who carries firearms in schools to have undergone a minimum of 728 hours of law enforcement training. The Supreme Court’s decision affirmed Twelfth District’s decision.
In writing for the four-justice majority, the Chief Justice stated that nothing in Ohio law allows districts to circumvent the law's training requirement. The statute prohibits schools from employing someone who is armed while on duty “unless the employee has satisfactorily completed an approved basic peace-officer-training program or has 20 years of experience as a peace officer,” she wrote.
Three justices dissented, saying they believed Ohio law does allow the arming of teachers without the extra training. “If the General Assembly had wished to prohibit non-security personnel, like teachers, from carrying weapons while on school property without the required training, it could have done so and may still do so,” wrote Justice Patrick Fischer.
There is a bill pending in the Ohio House that would exempt school employees from this training requirement.