On June 23, 2021, the Supreme Court of Ohio issued a decision in the Gabbard et al. v. Madison Local School District Board of Education et al. case interpreting the Ohio Revised Code to require teachers to undergo a full peace-officer training course before a school district may authorize them to carry a firearm on school premises. In a 4-3 decision, the Court ruled that the Madison Local Schools' policy authorizing certain teachers to carry firearms on school premises with just a valid concealed carry permit and some additional training was contrary to Ohio law.
Pursuant Revised Code Section 109.78(D), schools are prohibited from “employing a person who goes armed while on duty in his or her job unless the employee has satisfactorily completed an approved basic peace-officer training program or has 20 years of experience as a peace officer.”
Those in favor of arming teachers with less than a full peace-officer training course pointed to a criminal statute, R.C. 2923.122(D)(1)(a), which protects from criminal prosecution individuals “who [have] 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,” as the basis for allowing local boards of education to authorize teachers without peace officer training to carry firearms on school premises.
The Supreme Court's decision harmonizing the two statutes was largely a matter of statutory interpretation, with the majority arriving at the conclusion that R.C. 109.78(D)'s peace-officer training requirement encompasses all school employees authorized to carry firearms on school property, not just law enforcement or security officers. As such, teachers seeking authorization to carry firearms on school property must undergo a full peace-officer training program to satisfy the statutory requirements. To put this requirement in perspective, a full peace-officer training program mandates a minimum of 737 hours of instruction, while a typical concealed firearm carry permit requires just eight.
In its analysis, the Supreme Court reviewed the plain language of the statute to arrive at its decision and stated that if the Ohio legislature intended a different meaning, it could have written the text of the law differently – essentially inviting the legislature to rework the statute to arrive at a different interpretation. There is little doubt the legislature will do just that. Currently, House Bill 99 is pending in the General Assembly, and if passed, would dramatically reduce the amount of training required for teachers to carry firearms in schools.
PKM attorneys continue to monitor the situation as it develops, and are available to discuss how these changes may affect your district.