Gov. Mike DeWine has signed House Bill 99, allowing teachers and other school personnel to carry guns in the classroom, he announced Monday.
Speaking at Ohio Department of Public Safety headquarters in Columbus, DeWine and legislators backing the bill touted the measure as improving school safety and emphasized that it’s accompanied by further resources for youth mental health.
The bill will take effect in 90 days. It includes $6 million to expand the state’s network of school safety centers, DeWine said.
Early in the afternoon Nan Whaley, former mayor of Dayton and now the Democratic nominee running against DeWine for the governor’s office, held a virtual news conference to denounce HB 99 and other loosening of gun laws under DeWine. Whaley recalled that when DeWine visited Dayton immediately after the mass shooting in the Oregon District in August 2019, the crowd began chanting “Do something!” at him.
“It is one of the most powerful moments I have ever witnessed,” Whaley said.
In the aftermath, DeWine backed some gun control measures, but soon caved to political pressure and now claims to be doing what was asked, she said.
“It’s a complete bastardization of what people in Dayton said, frankly,” Whaley said.
DeWine’s announcement came the same day permitless concealed carry of handguns became legal under HB 215, which he signed March 14. Although his announcement on HB 99 was expected, DeWine prefaced it by listing related actions since he became Ohio attorney general in 2011: updating school safety plans, creating a task force focused on mental health and providing grants for schools to give active-shooter training. As governor, he put $84 million toward expanding behavioral health centers in children’s hospitals, DeWine said.
“That is a work in progress,” he said.
Student Wellness and Success Funds are now part of the standard school funding formula, DeWine said. In 2019, the state created the Ohio School Safety Center, which looks for threats on social media, runs the state tipline for potential school violence and offers vulnerability assessments of school facilities, he said.
Another $5 million for the center’s grant program was announced just before the May 24 shooting that killed 21 at an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas. DeWine said he’ll sign the state’s biannual capital project budget Tuesday, which includes $100 million that can be used to improve school safety. By March 2023, every school must have a team in place to assess students’ behavior for potential threats; teachers will be trained by staff from educational service centers, he said.
For a decade, Ohio law allowed three categories of people to carry guns in schools, DeWine said: police, hired security, or “any other person who has written authorization from the board of education or governing body of a school to convey deadly weapons.” But the Ohio Supreme Court ruled last year that those armed personnel had to have the same training as a police officer: more than 700 hours, or 20 years of law enforcement experience, he said.
That made it “impractical for most schools” to arm anyone but actual police, whether active or retired, DeWine said.
He worked with the General Assembly to craft HB 99 in response to that ruling. Schools will not be required to arm teachers or staff. Some districts have already said they won’t, some said they will, and many are undecided, DeWine said. Districts that already have police on hand may “very, very understandably” want to limit guns to those officers, he said.
The bill says teachers are required to have “up to” 24 hours of gun training, and DeWine said he’s directing the Ohio School Safety Center to develop curriculum for that maximum. Individual districts may insist their personnel get more training, and DeWine said he’s also asking the center to develop “above and beyond” training blocks for that purpose, plus a required 8 hours of extra training per year.
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