Ohio state law prohibits firearms inside school buildings, but school boards have the right to give individuals permission to conceal carry.
At the Faculty/Administrator Safety Training and Emergency Response or FASTER training, educators prepare in case of an active shooter. On the third and last day, participants go through an active shooter simulation.
At Wadsworth High School, a role playing scenario unfolds with one person pretending to be an active shooter. Gunshots sound in the otherwise quiet hallway.
Seconds later, a teacher comes out of a classroom carrying a gun. He carefully but quickly shuffles toward the sound of gunfire. He approaches a large room, sees an angry teenager with a gun, and confronts him.
“Freeze! Freeze! Drop it!” he shouts.
The actor pretends to take his own life, “I’m shooting myself.”
The mock shooter appears dead on the ground and the man – Keith – assesses the scene. Another man emerges and Keith tells him to call 911. But the caller is unclear as he describes the scene to emergency services.
“Yeah, the teacher’s got his gun out. Yeah, no he’s got his gun and he’s pointing it at people,” he rambles. “He’s wearing a white shirt...”
Finally, Chris Cerino, the trainer watching this simulation unfold, calls an end to the scene. He reminds Keith that police entering the building could mistake him for the shooter.
“If people don’t know you’re armed in this school, you might need to say, ‘Tell them I’m one of the first responders here at the school. It is ok for me to have a gun.’ You gotta think about what you’re going to say,” Cerino advises.
Two Districts Decide To Bring Guns Into Schools
The superintendent of Hicksville Schools in Northwest Ohio is here to better understand the training that his armed teachers and staff are getting. Keith Countryman says this is one in a series of security measures at Hicksville including security cameras and doors that lock automatically. He says they couldn’t afford a school police officer, but they also don’t want to be a soft target.
“The people I’ve chosen to carry I’ve instructed them that they are to never have the gun off their body for any reason nor have it shown for any reason unless it’s needed in a threating situation,” says Countryman.
Other schools have chosen to conceal their weapons differently. Just outside Dayton near Wright Patterson Air Force base, Mad River Schools has purchased guns, ammunition, and safety vests that will be kept in safes throughout its buildings.
“Only the response team members and myself know the location of where the safes are,” says Chad Wyen, Superintendent of Mad River Schools.
For the past year, Wyen has been preparing his staff and interviewing volunteers who will be on the 32-member response team. They’ll each go through training before the firearm plan goes into effect in the fall.
“Our community in general is very Appalachian and military,” Wyen explains, “and I think maybe they have a better understanding of what this means as far as protection and school safety.”
The Mad River teachers’ union declined to comment, but to get a sense of how the community feels, I spoke to a half dozen parents at pick up time outside Beverly Gardens Elementary. No one was opposed to the plan but some expressed concerns.
“Well, as long as they get well trained, I don’t mind,” says Richard Love. “Personally, I always carry on me.”
“I think it’s a good idea,” says Kelly Rinehart, “but they need to be locked up in a lock box so little ones can’t get to them.”
Love had not heard about the new safety plan but the district has been open about it, created a video with Wyen, Riverside Police Chief Frank Robinson and members of the board of education to announce the new safety plan.
Most Districts Mum On Safety Plans
But most districts have been quiet. Emails were sent to every district in the state asking if they had given anyone permission to conceal carry. Many did not respond. Most who did said no. Others said their safety plans are not public information.
The districts were asked if anyone who works for the district has asked for permission to bring a firearm to school, was the request approved and the date of the approval. The request also asked for the name and title of the person who was approved to carry a firearm.
A previous version of this story contained a chart with information that could have inadvertently exposed sensitive school security details. It has been removed.