COLUMBUS — Like it or not, teachers and administrators are the first responders when a gunman opens fire in a school, and the state must arm them with as much information as possible to prepare them, Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine said today.
But the question of whether to arm them or a security guard with firearms is not one for him to answer but rather one for more than 600 school boards across the state, he said.
“The truth is that, while we train first responders, the real first responders in these tragedies are teachers,” Mr. DeWine said. “They’re the ones who are there. They’re the ones that are going to make the life and death decisions. They’re the ones that are going to do what they can do to save lives.
“By the time the first responders get there, we may already have a number of children killed,” he said. “That’s just the fact, no matter how good the first responders are or how fast they respond. … So it makes sense to be training (teachers and administrators) as well as law enforcement officers.”
He unveiled a partnership with the Department of Education and a variety of school and law enforcement organizations to extend training beyond law enforcement to teachers and principals to identify potential problems before they occur and to help them respond when they do occur.
But he stopped short of suggesting what an unarmed teacher or principal can do in the face of an armed shooter. Ohio law makes carrying guns into schools illegal. The question of proactively arming a security guard, teacher, or administrator will be a matter of discussion, Mr. DeWine said.
“If I was on a school board — and I’m not...It’s the toughest job there is... — I would seriously consider having someone in that school who may be an ex-police officer, someone who has significant training, who had access to a gun in a school,” he said.
“But you’d have to be very careful about it,” Mr. DeWine said. “I’m not saying everyone in school should be armed, but someone who knows exactly what they are doing who has that gun under lock and key and who can get to it instantly, that’s something I would at least debate and talk about in the school.”
Mr. DeWine has been critical that some schools had not filed mandatory safety plans and building floor plans with his office as required by law, and his office said many of those plans do not meet new minimum guidelines.
On Tuesday, The Blade sent reporters to a number of elementary schools in northwest Ohio and southeast Michigan, sometimes encountering unlocked front entrance doors or being buzzed through locked doors before any questions were asked.
In each case when confronted, the reporters identified themselves and explained their reasons for being there.
When asked for reaction to The Blade’s experience, Mr. DeWine stressed that filing a quality plan is only the first step.
““Step 2: You have to follow the plan,” he said. “Now I couldn’t tell you on those schools — I don’t know what schools they are — if they were following their plan or they weren’t following their plan. Maybe that’s what their plan said…
“We cannot, unless we barricade our schools in this country, ensure that there’s never going to be a problem, but what we can do, and what is our moral obligation to do as citizens and elected officials, is to minimize the risk, to increase our odds of the kids surviving, and to decrease the odds of something happening,” Mr. DeWine said.
“We can do that,” he said. “It is within our power to do that…For us not to do it is simply wrong. In the end, there’s no guarantee.”