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Ohio District to Authorize Armed Staff

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From guest blogger Alyssa Morones

The ripples cast by the December school shooting in Newtown, Conn., continue to be reflected in school districts' changing security policies. An Ohio district may be the latest to start allowing staff to carry guns in school safety zones, reports the New Philadelphia Times Reporter.

The board of education for the approximately 1,200-student Newcomerstown district in eastern Ohio approved a policy at the end of June to authorize "certain persons designated by the board and superintendent to convey deadly weapons...in a school safety zone of the Newcomerstown Exempted Village School District."

The individuals would be required to have or obtain a permit to carry a concealed handgun and undergo an extensive three-day certification program that would include tactical training. They would then be recertified every year by the Tuscarawas County Sheriff's Department. At present, one employee has gone through the certification program with the Buckeye Firearms Association.

After the shooting at Sandy Hook, a local parent group, calling itself the Parent Safety Committee, came to the district with a set of new security proposals to add to the efforts already being made by the district, in which schools used to have fairly open campuses. Included in these was the suggestion that some staff members be armed.

Specific information on the locations and number of individuals authorized to carry guns, or the names the individuals, will not be released to the general public.

School board president Jerry Lahmers said, "Our school safety plan is not public record for obvious reasons. We also want to protect the safety of the individuals [carrying guns], so that they don't become targets, if such a situation does occur. We hope that this policy will act as a deterrent. The policy is intended to provide that extra last margin of safety."

According to Lahmers, the focus of the community response has mostly been on technical and implementation issues more than the overall idea of the policy.

"We've tried to be very open on the development of this policy," he said. "It's not something that came out of the blue. We tried to get the community involved and keep them informed that this was a possibility."

When Kansas school districts allowed employees to work while armed earlier this year, they ran into a roadblock with one of the state's insurance companies that refused to renew or write new policies for districts upholding this policy, citing the heightened liability risk.

While Newcomerstown is still in discussion with its insurance carrier, the district has yet to run into this same issue.

Lahmers said, "[Our insurance company] hasn't flat out said no, and we haven't seen any premium changes at this point. Discussions are ongoing, but it doesn't appear that they will be strongly opposed to the policy."

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