The Ohio Attorney General’s Office recently released an opinion in response to a request for legal advice on the issue of arming school staff. The letter requested, among other things, an analysis on how the training requirements under R.C. 109.78(D) apply to school employees authorized by the board of education to carry or possess a deadly weapon on school property under R.C. 2923.122(A).
R.C. 109.78(D) in full provides:
“(D) No public or private educational institution or superintendent of the State Highway Patrol shall employ 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 police officer training program, unless the person has completed twenty years of active duty as a police officer.”
As noted, R.C. 2923.122(A) prohibits any person from knowingly conveying, or attempting to convey, a deadly weapon into a school safety zone. However, there is a specific exception set out in R.C. 2923.122(D)(1)(a) which excludes any other person from this prohibition:
“who has written authorization from the board of education or governing body of a school to convey deadly weapons… in a school safety zone or to possess a deadly weapon… in a school safety zone and who convey or possesses the deadly weapon… in accordance with that authorization.”
The letter sought advice on whether or not a school employee who has been authorized to carry a deadly weapon by the board of education under R.C. 2923.122(D)(1)(a) is subject to the training requirements of R.C. 109.78(D). The Attorney General’s Office reiterated their argument laid out in their amicus brief in the appeal of Gabbard v. Madison Local School Dist. Bd. of Edn. The court in that case concluded that school employees authorized by the board of education to carry firearms on school premises were not subject to the training requirements of R.C. 109.78(D) because they were not employed by the district in a security capacity. The Attorney General’s Office agreed and opined that in order to determine which provision outlined above is applicable to an employee hired by a school district, we must analyze whether the individual is employed in a role comparable to that of a security guard or police officer. In doing so, we must look to the person’s job title along with the duties and responsibilities assigned to them.
If an employee is hired by the district in a security capacity, then they are subject to the training requirements expressed in R.C. 109.78(D). (I.e. approved basic training police program, or twenty years active duty of a police officer). However, any other employee hired by a school district who does not serve in such a role, i.e. teacher, principal, custodian, and who is authorized by the board to carry or possess a firearm under R.C. 2923.122(D)(1)(a), is not subject to the training requirements of R.C. 109.78(D).