An Ohio county’s decision to let educators carry on campus, provided they had been through the FASTER Saves Lives training program, has survived a legal challenge from a group of parents pushing to require police-level training for any school employee to carry on campus.
Not long after a school shooting a few years ago, the Madison County school system wrestled with the question of whether to allow teachers and administrators to carry at school as a way to provide an additional line of defense in an active-shooter incident. The school board voted to allow armed staff, then considered what kind of training would be required. They soon determined that if a teacher went through Ohio’s FASTER program, that teacher could carry on campus.
A group of parents contended that the FASTER training wasn’t enough. Instead, they wanted to require full training for peace officers—some 700 hours of coursework—as a condition for staff to carry. But a Butler County Common Pleas Court judge saw no need to mandate such extensive instruction and determined that the FASTER program—which has attracted teachers from other states—was sufficient.
"This ruling is a victory for school safety in Ohio,” said Dean Rieck, executive director of the Buckeye Firearms Association. “While I won’t disparage the motives of the parents who brought the suit, this was really a case of well-funded, out-of-state political activists coming to Ohio with an agenda.”
That’s how Everytown for Gun Safety—the backer of the lawsuit—operates. It bankrolls local challenges with the hope of wearing down gun rights’ rules by requiring time and money to fight court battles.
“Given that no school employee could ever be expected to complete over 700 hours of training, and given the expense of hiring security or police officers, a loss by Madison Local Schools in this case could create precedent that could potentially prevent anyone from being armed in Ohio schools and making them completely defenseless from active killers looking for easy targets,” Rieck said.
The notion of having armed staff at schools has gained more attention after the tragic mass shooting last year at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla. A school resource officer (SRO) was onsite in that instance, but did little to protect the students. While SROs are considered a good first step, school districts across the nation have long debated letting educators carry, primarily because many campuses are too big for one SRO to secure.
As school districts debate the merits of allowing teachers to carry, programs like FASTER have been devised to give educators defensive training and first aid skills. For a glimpse at how much of a draw the concept is, consider that when FASTER announced a class in 2012, it was looking for 24 students; more than 1,000 applicants filed for the positions.
The training has since spread to other states, and over the last past six years, more than 2,000 school employees from 250 school districts have taken the course.
Armed teachers can be a deterrent simply by virtue of the fact that a gunman might think twice before entering school grounds if he knows that responsible, law-abiding citizens might be armed and ready to defend their students. But in the event that an active shooter were to attack, having more good guys with guns on site can limit the number of casualties of innocent people.
That, coupled with an assessment of the school’s condition and practices, can serve as a strong line of defense against active shootings. The NRA School Shield program is one way for school districts to learn about how to improve school security. The School Shield team visits the area and trains local law enforcement and school officials on how to rate schools for their physical security.