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Nan Whaley blasts law allowing armed teachers in Ohio schools as it takes effect

Sun on yellow lockers in school hallway
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A law slashing the training requirements for armed personnel in Ohio schools is in effect, three months after it was signed by Republican Gov. Mike DeWine. His Democratic opponent says that law, which allowed armed teachers and staff but doesn’t require them, is the wrong idea to stop school shootings.

"This week, one of the most dangerous laws signed by Mike DeWine goes into effect," said Nan Whaley, who is backed by the state’s largest teachers union, the Ohio Education Association. The OEA opposed allowing armed personnel in schools with 24 hours of training. Before the law, people who wanted to go armed in schools had to complete more than 700 hours of training.

House Bill 99 sets the maximum required training at 24 hours plus eight annual hours of scenario-based training. School districts would be permitted to require more training.

Whaley noted DeWine talked about more school security and mental health help after the elementary school shooting in Uvalde, Texas in May.

“But instead of pursuing commonsense policies that will keep our kids safe, he did the opposite," Whaley said. "He signed HB 99, that will put more guns with less training into our schools, making our kids, our educators and our communities less safe.”

"For Mike DeWine, public safety is just a campaign talking point," Whaley added.

Whaley said she wants to "roll back" this law, as well as the so-called "Stand Your Ground" law and the permitless concealed carry law, which was also signed this year. She also said she wants to pass universal background checks, which are widely supported in polls. But it's unclear how these things could happen if Republicans once again win supermajorities in the Ohio House and Senate, which seems likely.

Whaley said the maps that Republicans on the Ohio Redistricting Commission approved - which were ruled unconstitutionally gerrymandered by the Ohio Supreme Court but are being used for this election because of a federal court order - "created an illegitimate state legislature".

If Whaley is elected, she said she would take DeWine's place on that panel and "draw fair districts, and we will get commonsense solutions to issues like gun safety." But to control the redistricting process next year, Democrats would also have to win either the race for Auditor or Secretary of State as well, since they're both on that panel, which only has two of seven seats guaranteed for the minority party.

DeWine’s campaign spokesperson disputes that, and asked in an emailed statement if Whaley supports repealing the $6 million for expanding the Ohio School Safety Center, which develops and delivers safety training for school personnel and works with schools on resources for emotional, physical and cyber safety. And the spokesperson noted allowing armed personnel is a choice for districts, not a requirement.

DeWine's campaign spokesperson said in that statement: "School safety is a serious topic, and we should have honest dialogue--Mayor Whaley spreading falsehoods is unhelpful to the public and counterproductive to reaching solutions for student safety. Unlike Mayor Whaley, Governor DeWine understands that a one-size-fits-all solution doesn't work in a state that is as diverse as Ohio. Governor DeWine is offering funding and assistance to every school while allowing communities to determine what options best meet their individual needs."

So far, fewer than a dozen of the state’s more than 600 school districts have allowed armed personnel in schools or are considering it.

The Ohio Department of Public Safety said school districts don't need to inform the Ohio Department of Education if they approve allowing armed staff. But a district must notify the Ohio School Safety Center of the qualified personnel who have completed training and can be armed in schools. But House Bill 99 states this list is not a public record.

Copyright 2022 The Statehouse News Bureau. To see more, visit The Statehouse News Bureau.

Karen is a lifelong Ohioan who has served as news director at WCBE-FM, assignment editor/overnight anchor at WBNS-TV, and afternoon drive anchor/assignment editor in WTAM-AM in Cleveland. In addition to her daily reporting for Ohio’s public radio stations, she’s reported for NPR, the BBC, ABC Radio News and other news outlets. She hosts and produces the Statehouse News Bureau’s weekly TV show “The State of Ohio”, which airs on PBS stations statewide. She’s also a frequent guest on WOSU TV’s “Columbus on the Record”, a regular panelist on “The Sound of Ideas” on ideastream in Cleveland, appeared on the inaugural edition of “Face the State” on WBNS-TV and occasionally reports for “PBS Newshour”. She’s often called to moderate debates, including the Columbus Metropolitan Club’s Issue 3/legal marijuana debate and its pre-primary mayoral debate, and the City Club of Cleveland’s US Senate debate in 2012.