Debate Forum 07/30

Debate Center: Local school district gives principals extra authority

By Alex Culpepper

Illustration by: Monte Wolverton

Since the December 2012 shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary in Connecticut, the issue of allowing armed teachers in schools has been a national debate. It has also been an Ohio debate leading to three school districts in the state passing measures allowing armed employees in schools. Montpelier Schools were the first to take the issue to vote, allowing custodians to be armed; then Orrville Schools followed shortly after, allowing a teacher-police officer to be armed; and then earlier this summer, schools in Newcomerstown made similar arrangements. In the Dayton area, the Springboro Board of Education entered into discussion about arming teachers, but nothing came of it.

Now a fourth school district has made a move: Edgewood Schools in Butler County, in Trenton just south of the Dayton area. The Edgewood Board of Education recently voted to allow principals to carry firearms in schools as long they obtain a conceal and carry permit and win certification from the Ohio Peace Officer Training Academy. Further, the school board must vote on whether each of the district’s 18 principals should be authorized with such capability. The decision in the Edgewood District to allow armed principals goes a step further in the movement to arm school staff because in Montpelier, Orrville and Newcomerstown, only authorized employees – not necessarily teachers or principals – are armed.

Debate is ongoing about placing armed employees or teachers in schools, and the movement to sway public opinion is strong. Supporters simply say schools are vulnerable as “gun free” zones, and the armed presence will be – at minimum – a crime deterrent and may be the only way to stop another tragic event like Sandy Hook. Opponents, however, believe guns in schools are a genuine safety concern and a policy problem regarding the carrying and use of firearms, and the responsibility of taking on this type of security presents challenges and liabilities beyond the scope and expertise of the public schools. Right now, Ohio school districts have the power to determine who carries a gun on school property because the Ohio Revised Code allows such decisions to be made locally by each district. Supporters of this system say local control is important because officials in local districts know what’s best for their districts. There is also some opposition, and they believe the state should at least be able to set protocol, safeguards and training regulations, because under the current system, none exist.

In the Edgewood School District the board has spoken, and they have given the green light for principals to arm themselves on school grounds. The decision pleases supporters of arming school employees, and for them this is a step toward making schools safer. On the other side, opponents are not convinced this is a good idea, and they believe administrators should educate and police officers should carry the guns.

Reach DCP forum moderator Alex Culpepper at

 Debate question of the week

A nearby school district board in Butler County has voted to allow principals to
carry guns in school. Should school boards have this authority? 
Or should school conceal carry (CCW) be regulated at state level? Further, should parents be permitted to move their children to a non-CCW school at district expense?

Debate left: Self pretense 

By Ben Tomkins

 The idea that administrators should be allowed to carry concealed handguns for the purpose of defending their school is quite possibly the most preposterous things I’ve ever heard. A gun is not going to help a bad situation just because it’s in the hands of a gym teacher.

I briefly considered starting off with how the act of bringing a gun into your house makes your family four times more likely to be injured by that gun than actually having to defend them with it, but I’ve already written that article. These things are not unknown. Yet, the image of mom with a Glock standing between an intruder and her kids persists as an idyllic American image of a safe household through the filter of the right to bear arms.

Unfortunately, the Edgewood School District in Butler County has decided that now it’s a secretary.

As I understand it, the logic is as follows:

1. Crazy people with guns are shooting up our schools.

2. In these situations, kids and teachers are totally defenseless because they don’t have guns to fight back.

3. Therefore, we should give guns to teachers and administrators to ensure that they are never in a situation where a gun isn’t present.

It’s the “The only defense against a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun,” argument. Well, I’m sorry, but wrapping your philosophy into a tidy little Christmas parcel doesn’t make it true. If the good guy doesn’t spend hours and hours in a simulator, he may as well try to club the perpetrator to death with his little donkey hooves instead of trying to use them to operate a trigger.

Without constant muscle memory training, the ability of any soldier, officer or – for that matter – “Call of Duty” player, to react to an imminent threat with any sort of effective aggression careens off the chart like a free-falling bomb. It’s no different than any activity that requires precise action in the absence of thought. As a violinist, I know exactly how quickly my ability to perform a difficult passage vanishes without constant practice, despite how many times I’ve played it before and regardless of my ability to intellectualize it. It’s “OK, honey. Do that again.” over and over and over, or when I step into that audition I’m not going to have the odds in my favor.

That’s what muscle memory is. It’s what your body does when your brain goes to complete shit, and there’s no way to read it in a book and pull it out of your ass when you need it. So, when we put a gun in the hands of an individual for the purpose of defense, we are going to need that person to be constantly training to react to an out-of-the-blue, insane situation with mindless reactions that don’t result in a terrified spray of bullets from a gun poking out from behind a desk like a periscope.

Even if an administrator or teacher has been certified by the Ohio Peace Officer Training Academy, which I’m sure is an excellent program, unless they are going twice a week for the rest of their life there would be precisely zero possibility of predicting their behavior. As my boxing coach used to tell me, ineffective aggression is worse than no aggression, because you’re too tired to defend yourself. In the case of a handgun in a school, ineffective aggression doesn’t result in a swift asswhipping and a trip to Dairy Queen to take the edge off. It results in bullets flying around like mosquitoes in a room full of first graders.

The business of guns should be left to trained individuals like a professional security guard who can be retained at a nominal fee, and controlling traffic and locking doors should be the business of teachers and administrators. Administrators and teachers are experts in their building and their students, and locking doors and communicating effectively is something they can train for. Everyone’s got a role to play, and that’s just as important as firing back.


Ben Tomkins is a violinist, teacher, journalist and critically acclaimed composer currently living in Denver, Colo. He hates stupidity, and generally believes that the volume of one’s voice is inversely proportional to one’s knowledge of the issue. Reach Ben Tomkins at


Debate right: It’s time to even the odds in schools

By Dave Landon


Last December, our nation wept over the senseless murder of 20 children and six adults at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn. The horrific attack by a 20-year-old deranged gunman sparked a national debate as to how to best protect our nation’s schoolchildren. Those who blamed the weapon – rather than the gunman – used the tragedy to argue for more restrictions on guns. This approach may satisfy the “gun control” crowd, but it doesn’t address the issue of how to best protect an unarmed population of schoolchildren and teachers. Creating “gun-free zones” in America’s schools has, in effect, created a “free-fire zone” for any whack job looking for a target. Immediately after the Sandy Hook shootings, some lawmakers began to advance the idea of allowing schools to arm teachers and other school administrators. Having an armed adult in our schools who can immediately respond to the threat of an armed gunman stalking the halls of a school is a measured response to the issue and is gaining momentum.

The issue of allowing armed teachers has become a national debate. It has also been debated in Ohio, leading to four school districts in the state passing measures allowing armed employees in schools. Across the country, there is legislation in a number of states to allow arming school personnel. Surprisingly, 18 states already allow some form of arming school administrators, teachers and other staff. Now, the Edgewood School District in Trenton, Ohio, in Butler County, has announced that their principals and assistant principals will be authorized to carry weapons.

If we are serious about protecting our schoolchildren from the danger of a mentally deranged individual deciding to settle some score by going on a rampage against helpless students and unarmed teachers, then we need to level the playing field. As much as I respect the job done by law enforcement, the reality of the situation is that they can’t be everywhere. In the time it takes for police to respond to a 911 call, an unchallenged shooter can roam the hallways of a school for minutes with time to inflict incredible damage. At Sandy Hook, the police arrived within a few short minutes, but even that was enough time for the gunman – whose name I refuse to reprint – to kill 20 children and six adults. The concept of making schools safe by declaring them to be “gun free” is not only naïve, but it’s a policy that is getting people killed.

The Edgewood Board of Education decision to allow school principals to carry firearms in schools is a positive step that will be followed by more and more school districts. In Edgewood, the principal – if they so choose – is authorized to obtain a “conceal and carry” permit and can then apply for certification from the Ohio Peace Officer Training Academy. The school board must then vote on whether each of the district’s 18 principals should be authorized with such capability. The decision in the Edgewood School District to allow armed principals to carry concealed weapons achieves two goals. First, it could serve as a deterrent, as it could give the potential gunman some pause in targeting a facility where it is advertised that there are armed personnel present. Secondly, the response time if a gunman shoots his way through the secured doors of a school is reduced from minutes to seconds.

Parents should feel secure that the schools where they send their defenseless children can truly protect them from the likes of the Sandy Hook shooter. The Edgewood School District has taken reasonable steps to do that. The question presented in this week’s debate is whether these serious decisions should be made at the state level, or should local school districts be able to make them at the local level. I think the correct answer should be that state law should allow for local decisions on these very important – possibly life-and-death – issues.


David H. Landon is the former Chairman of the Montgomery County Republican Party Central Committee. He can be reached at

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