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Can Ohio School Boards Authorize Individuals to Carry Concealed Firearms on School Grounds?

Updated: Jun 28, 2021

The Ohio Supreme Court will ultimately decide this issue in the case of Gabbard v. Madison Local School District Board of Education.

After a school shooting in 2016 at the Madison Junior-Senior High School, the Madison Local School District’s Board of Education passed a resolution that allowed the Board to authorize individuals to carry concealed firearms on District property.

The persons authorized to carry under the resolution were deemed “approved volunteers,” and were required: to have a license to carry a concealed weapon in Ohio; to complete 24 hours of active shooter training; and to complete and pass a criminal background check, drug screen, and mental health evaluation.

A group of parents then moved for a permanent injunction to prevent Madison Local from implementing the resolution unless the individuals completed an approved basic peace officer training program.

The trial court granted summary judgment to Madison Local on the permanent injunction request and the group of parents appealed to the Twelfth District Court of Appeals.

The 12th District ultimately determined that the trial court erred in granting summary judgment to Madison Local and, instead, granted the request for a permanent injunction.

At issue in the case were two statutes: R.C. §109.78(D) and R.C. §2923.122(D)(1)(a).


R.C. §109.78(D) provides that:

No public or private education institution * * * shall employ a person as a special police officer, security guard, or other position in which such person goes armed while on duty, who has not received a certificate of having satisfactorily completed an approved basic peace officer training program, unless the person has completed twenty years of active duty as a peace officer.

R.C. §2923.122(D)(1)(a), on the other hand, prohibits a person from knowingly possessing a deadly weapon or firearm on school property, but provides several exceptions, including:

any other person who has written authorization from the board of education or governing body of a school to convey deadly weapons or dangerous ordnance into a school safety zone or to possess a deadly weapon or dangerous ordnance in a school safety zone and who conveys or possesses the deadly weapon or dangerous ordnance in accordance with that authorization.

The 12th District reasoned that, although the Board may provide written authorization so that an individual is not subject to prosecution under R.C. §2923.122, the Board is still subject to the training requirements mandated by R.C. §109.78(D) when employing a person as a “special police officer, security guard, or other position in which such person goes armed while on duty.” In other words, according to the 12th District, the plain language of the statute reveals that the Board may only employ such persons if they have received significant training or have more than 20 years of experience and that the Board here cannot unilaterally change this training requirement.

The Board appealed to the Ohio Supreme Court, who unanimously agreed to hear the case. Most recently, on August 26, 2020, the Ohio Supreme Court granted the Board’s motion to stay the 12th District’s opinion, thereby, at least temporarily, reinstating the Board’s resolution until a decision on the merits is reached by the Court.


***UPDATE***

On June 23, 2021, in a 4-3 decision, the Ohio Supreme Court ruled that the resolution passed by the Madison Local School District Board of Education, which allowed certain employees of the District to carry firearms on school grounds, did not comport with Ohio law.


The Ohio Supreme Court held that because the April 2018 resolution authorized certain employees to be armed while on duty "without also requiring that these employees satisfy the training-or-experience requirement" of R.C. 109.78(D), the resolution violates the statute, and does not comply with Ohio law.


The Court also examined R.C. 2923.122, which makes it illegal to possess a deadly weapon in a school safety zone, with certain exceptions, including that the statute does not apply to "any other person who has written authorization from the board of education or governing body of a school to convey deadly weapons or dangerous ordnance into a school safety zone or to possess a deadly weapon or dangerous ordnance in a school safety zone * * *." The Court held that this exception does not give school boards the ability to circumvent the requirements of R.C. 109.78(D).


The dissenting opinions indicated that the peace officer training requirements were not applicable to teachers and other school staff, and that school districts had discretion in creating policies regarding arming teachers or other staff.


On February 9, 2021, Representative Tom Hall, whose father was the school resource officer who chased the shooter out of the building in 2016, introduced House Bill 99, which would give school districts throughout Ohio the discretion to allow teachers and other school staff to be armed in school so long as they have completed the concealed carry training. The Bill also includes amendments to R.C. 2923.122 and R.C. 109.78.

This Employment Law Alert may provide an overview of specific federal and/or state laws and regulations. It is not intended to be, and should not be construed as, legal advice for any particular situation or individual.

Copyright © 2020 Stefanik Iosue & Associates, LLC. All rights reserved.

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