DARKE COUNTY – None of the eight schools in Darke County have decided, one way or the other, whether they will entertain the idea of arming school personnel, they said. All eight superintendents responded that so far, there aren’t any teachers participating in an armed teacher program.
One man, Bruce Mikesell, retired army officer and National Rifle Association certified firearms instructor, is working to inform local school boards that they do have the option to give written permission to individuals, under Ohio Revised Code 2923.122.
According to ORC 2923.122, which dictates the use of firearms or other weapons in a school safety zone, no person can knowingly possess a firearm or other weapon on school grounds, unless the person has “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 or to possess a deadly weapon or dangerous ordnance in a school safety zone and who conveys or possesses the deadly weapon or dangerous ordnance in accordance with that authorization.”
Ohio Revised Code also states that this person can be an employee, agent or officer of the state, basically anyone employed by a school district, Mikesell said. He also remarked that this policy can’t be a blanket for the entire state, but is a decision that individual school boards must make on their own, and Mikesell has visited three districts already to discuss hand-gun and active-shooter training, which he is qualified to provide, and will visit the other five as soon as he can, he said.
“There’s proven historical record that firearms in the school can save lives,” Mikesell commented. “The best example I can give is that when cases started being recorded, the first school shooting or mass murder was in 1927 in Michigan. From 1927-1990, there were 85 fatalities in schools…From 1990 to present day, we’ve had almost 400.”
According to Mikesell, 1990 was the year the federal government passed the Gun-Free School Zone Act, doing away with all firearms and dangerous weapons on school property. However, weapons are still finding their ways into schools; according to a study by the Centers for Disease Control, 7.4 percent of high school students nationwide reported being threatened or injured with a weapon (club, knife, gun) on school property. In 2011, 5.4 percent of high school aged students nationwide reported bringing a weapon to school, stated that same CDC report.
In 2010, there were 4,828 homicide victims between the ages of 10 and 18, said the CDC, 82.8 percent of those homicides were from firearms. Approximately 7 percent of teachers in 2010 reported threats or injury from students at their schools, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.
Recently, President Barack Obama announced four common-sense measures to protect the nation’s children:
A. Close background check loopholes to keep guns out of dangerous hands;
B. Put a ban on military-style assault weapons and high capacity magazines to reduce gun violence;
C. Making schools safer; and
D. Increasing access to mental health services.
According to a blog entry by Cameron Brenchley, director of digital strategy for the U.S. Department of Education, educators say they need something other than guns to protect their students:
- Hire school resource officers – specially trained police officers who act as teachers and mentors;
- Hire more school psychologists, social workers and counselors to support students and avert crisis before it happens; and
- Purchase school safety equipment, such as security cameras and secure locking systems.
“…the last thing Sandy Hook teachers are asking for is more guns in schools,” commented Secretary of Education Arne Duncan in a video interview on Jan. 22.
John Stephens, Arcanum-Butler Local School District superintendent, said that his district is discussing the use of identification badges for school personnel and visitors, installing doorbells or an intercom system at the preschool, and the protocol of locking doors during the day. They’ve also discussed whether arming teachers and other personnel is the right solution, Stephens said.
“I think our board is looking to examine the pros and cons of that situation,” Stephens commented. “It’s just beginning discussions, nothing really concrete at this time, we’re just looking for more information.”
Mikesell reported that in 1974 a school in Israel experienced an act of terrorism, losing 25 individuals. Following that incident, Mikesell said the schools in Israel armed themselves; putting trained volunteers in the schools, school buses, and on school outings, and decreasing mass murders in the schools to just one incident following that, he said.
“The Israelis use armed teachers, volunteers – parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles – and during heightened alerts, they also use soldiers and police, but by and large, they use trained volunteers,” Mikesell asserted. “And, unarguably, you can accept that Israel is a much more dangerous environment than the U.S., but that particular system works for them.”
Mikesell went on to talk about the Newtown, Conn. shooting, and how that individual stole firearms, was denied access to the school, and forced his way in, killing 20 first grade students and six school personnel.
“One of the first people he encountered was the building principal; she gave her life to save her children, because she had no way to fight back,” Mikesell said. “So I would like to give every school in the county an opportunity to have this training, if they choose.”
Mikesell said that this program should be volunteer; only those who wish to take the training, and ultimately the responsibility, should participate, because they have a vested interest. He also shared that there are many veterans in the county, and in the county’s school districts, who would be happy to provide this service.
“We never know, unless we’ve actually been in a gun fight or combat situation [whether we could pull the trigger], but I will tell you that many of the schools have veterans in them, they may have other first responders – people on fire departments or EMS people – and those are all first-responder trained people, used to working under pressure in critical situations,” Mikesell commented. “And for those that aren’t, who just have a desire to do this, that’s what the training is for. How do you think military and police officers get their training?”
Mikesell did assert that an active, working relationship with local law enforcement is paramount, but he also commented that there are veterans in the county who have training.
“That being said, with the limited resources that our law enforcement people here have to work with, there are other citizens here in the county that are qualified and willing to assist the schools,” Mikesell said. “And there’s no requirement by the ORC that says schools must use law enforcement. We have many, many veterans here in the county who have extensive training and could be a big help to the school systems, always working in concert with our local law enforcement.”
Mikesell said that the Darke County Fish and Game Association has agreed to offer 24 free trainings to Darke County school personnel. Mikesell has been offering armed and unarmed self-defense training for almost 35 years, as well as having 20 years in the armed forces, he said. He can be contacted at 937-423-5717 or email@example.com if people wish to get more information on firearm safety, school security, or personal security.