With House Bill 99 (HB 99), which allows Ohio’s educators to carry firearms on school grounds with just 24 hours’ training, set to take effect Sept. 12, Jackson High School (JHS) Band Director Ryan Hurd recently took the opportunity to share his opinions on the matter with the Jackson City Schools (JCS) Board of Education.

Hurd spoke as a citizen, parent, and JCS educator during the Tuesday night, June 28 meeting’s public-participation portion. Near the start of his time, he noted that the district had discussed this matter a few years ago, at which time the local position was to not pursue the arming of school staff.

“I hope that despite new legislation lowering the amount of training needed to carry a firearm, that the school district would still uphold its policy of only trained law enforcement officers being able to carry a firearm in the school district’s buildings,” Hurd said. “Personally, I can’t think of a single situation that would make me feel better as an employee or a parent to allow firearms into the hands of our teachers. Despite personal background, it’s just not a teacher’s job to carry weapons to protect our students.”

Expressing a love for his job and deep care for his students, Hurd told the Board that, in the event of a “disaster situation,” he would “certainly do the right thing” and keep those students safe. However, he opined that providing such protection “should not include the use of a firearm.”

“I can only imagine the horror stories that would come out of schools that end up implementing this policy,” Hurd continued. “In a world where we have to sometimes ask what has happened to the classroom hall pass, or calculators, I worry about the thought of maybe where a teacher’s gun has walked off to.”

Hurd next pointed to studies he says show that children can and will access guns when they are present.

“In a study from the archives of pediatrics and adolescent medicine entitled ‘Parental Misconceptions about Children and Firearms,’ it’s noted that a majority of children are aware of where their parents store their guns,” he stated. “More than one-third of those children reported handling their parents’ guns without the knowledge of the parents. Nearly one-quarter of the parents in the study did not know that their children handled a gun in their house. In another study, it was concluded that access to a firearm, irrespective of age, triples the risk of death by suicide and doubles the risk of death by homicide.”

Addressing the issues arming teachers presents to insurance liability, Hurd then cited an article from 2018 in the Los Angeles Times, which focused on several school districts in Kansas that sought to arm educators.

“Insurance companies had informed them that they could not insure such a dangerous practice,” he stated. “School policy may also expose teachers to criminal liability in the event of those policies not being consistent with state law. It’s also unlikely that insurance companies would indemnify all legal liability, particularly federal civil rights liability.”

Hurd went on to spotlight the daily challenges educators across the nation face already in dealing with their pupils, including food shortages, abuse, health and dental wellness, chronic absenteeism, increased standardized testing, bullying, access to technology, poverty, and so on.

“It’s simply not fair to expect this list to include the training or mental strength needed to shoot another human being,” he opined. “If I happened to have any colleagues who would immediately sign up to carry a gun if given permission, my response is wholeheartedly, ‘I do not trust you to do so.’ This is not their responsibility or expertise as teaching staff.”

As a parent, Hurd says he trusts the JCS District to look after, care for and educate his daughter, and expressed his belief that staff members do so well. In terms of making Jackson schools safer, however, he asked the Board to consider revisiting the prospect of employing School Resource Officers (SROs) in all buildings, not just the middle and high schools.

“I know there are many issues that need solved at the state and federal levels to fully combat this issue, but the local security of an SRO in every school building is an excellent start,” Hurd concluded.

In response, Superintendent Phil Howard first addressed the fact that the district did examine this issue in recent years.

“At that time, there was no appetite from the Board to put that policy in place,” he explained. “In my individual discussions with Board members since that time, I don’t think there has been a change of heart.”

Regarding Hurd’s comments about SROs, Howard expressed his belief that all school officials would agree that having an SRO in each building would be ideal; the problem, though, would be the associated cost.

“We’re already in some deficit-spending situations,” he explained. “I do believe that, maybe soon, there’s going to be some money coming our way and we’d use every penny of that to employ additional SROs. We chose the middle and high schools to place SROs because the majority of shootings that were taking place across the country at that time involved middle- and high-school students. It’s only been recently that random people have started entering school buildings and doing this. I just don’t see any way right now that we could employ three additional SROs. We’re talking a minimum of $50,000 to $75,000 apiece.”

Overall, Howard stated teachers are “overwhelmingly against” the notion of being armed and put into such situations. He likewise offered up his opinion of HB 99’s training requirements for educators wishing to bear arms in the classroom.

“The 24 hours of required training is a joke, in my opinion, when law enforcement officials are required to have [737 hours],” Howard said. “It’s a slap in the face to the people who have gotten the training to be law enforcement officers.”

Superintendent Howard, near the end of the discussion, went over some of the possible negative situations that could arise with armed school staff, including the insurance liability issues Hurd mentioned previously, the mental health ramifications for staff members in the event of having to use their firearms, and the potential for police officers to confuse armed teachers with active shooters when entering a facility. He also offered up a hypothetical scenario.

“Let’s say I’m armed to help protect our students, and I look across the cafeteria and see a student with a gun,” Howard theorized. “Am I going to shoot that student only to find out later that it was a BB gun? If I don’t and it’s a real gun the student then uses to shoot his or her classmates, I don’t think the amount of training you’d get would be enough to make such a decision. Even police officers make that mistake. I don’t think our teachers need to be put in that position.”

In conclusion, Superintendent Howard said, though some may believe that having that extra layer of protection in schools is worth the risk, he believes those risks far outweigh the rewards.