MONTPELIER, Ohio — As the mother of three children in Montpelier Exempted Village Schools, Teresa Hickman calls the district’s plan to arm the custodial staff with guns an effective way to prevent incidents like the shootings in Newtown, Conn.
“I don't have a problem with it. With all the shootings going on in these little schools this will make me feel more at peace,” said Mrs. Hickman as she waited Friday in her minivan for her two sons and daughter to be dismissed.
Montpelier schools may be the first in Ohio to ramp up security by authorizing employees to carry weapons.
The district has about 1,000 students in kindergarten through 12th grade and 75 teachers in one building in this Williams County village of 4,000.
The school board voted unanimously on Wednesday to allow four janitors to carry their own guns inside the school.
Mrs. Hickman, who learned about the plan in a letter the district sent to parents, said that the school district is taking a protective stance that could deter shooters from entering school property and could serve as a model for other districts.
School officials said they began floating the idea of arming some nonteaching staff about six months ago in response to periodic national incidents of classroom violence. The Dec. 14 massacre of 20 students and six staff at Sandy Hook Elementary School provided the impetus for the school board enact the plan.
Four janitors, all men, have volunteered to take part and are to undergo a two-day training course in March that will be paid for by the school district.
Superintendent Jamie Grime would not identify the employees who have agreed to participate.
Mark Earle, father of two Montpelier students, said that arming janitors to deter violence could become a standard practice for schools in Ohio and throughout the country.
“I think some school districts have already implemented armed guards in schools to stop the possibilty of incidents as far as violence with people entering the schools,” Mr. Earle said while he waited in his vehicle for his daughter and son to emerge.
Shannon Siler said she was not sold on the idea of having janitors holstered with guns. She said she prefers hiring police officers to tighten security in the school.
“I am a little leery. I know they are going to be doing all this training and stuff, but what if a janitor goes psychotic?” said Ms. Siler, the mother of two girls.
“There is a need to beef up security. ... But, it all starts at home. Lock your guns up.”
The unusual move in taking steps to arm janitors put the rural school district in the national spotlight.
Mr. Grime, the district’s top administrator for five years, said he took numerous telephone calls Friday from national television networks and new services, including CNN and FOX.
Administrators and superintendents from districts throughout the state called or sent emails to the superintendent to get information about the district’s plans, he said.
“I am not proud of the fact that it has come to this,” said Mr. Grime, who has three children of his own in Montpelier Schools.
“I am not totally in favor of having concealed-carry weapons in school.
“But times have changed.”
Montpelier Police Chief Jeffrey Lehman is assisting the school district in setting up the training for the janitors and has recommended instructors with the Tactical Defense Institute, based in West Union in southwest Ohio’s Adams County.
Chief Lehman, who has been the village’s chief law enforcment officer for 12 years, said he has taken classes from Tactical Defense Institute instructors. He said the organization conducts classes for the National Association of School Resource Officers.
“They have been doing this type of training even before Columbine and even before Virginia Tech,” he said.
“This is something that is not new to them.”
Contact Mark Reiter at: firstname.lastname@example.org or 419-724-6199.