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Ohio says teachers can carry firearms in schools. Will Talawanda allow it?

<p>The Talawanda School District closed for the rest of this week due to a surge in COVID-19 cases and staff shortages.</p>

The Talawanda School District closed for the rest of this week due to a surge in COVID-19 cases and staff shortages.

Teachers in Ohio are now permitted to carry firearms while at school, at the discretion of individual school boards, after Ohio House Bill 99 (HB99) went into effect on Sept. 12.

The bill allows school boards to decide for their districts whether staff members can be armed on school grounds. Those who wish to carry would go through yearly background checks and 24 hours of training.

Holli Morrish, director of communications and public engagement for the Talawanda School District, clarified the district is not considering arming teachers.

“I understand from our current Board of Education that they have no plans to create a policy or an implementation process for that,” she said.

Anna Reiff, a senior at Talawanda High School, doesn’t support arming teachers at her school.

“I’m pretty against it,” Reiff said. “It’s more so upsetting to think that we’ve come to a point where we’re even introducing the idea that teachers have to open-carry in classrooms for the purpose of protecting the students, because I feel like that can go so wrong.”

Though Talawanda hasn’t formally surveyed its students and parents on the issue, Morrish believes the community has mostly reached a consensus, as no one has reached out to her to ask about introducing such a policy.

Reiff hasn’t heard many students talking about the bill either. However her parents, who teach at Miami University, have been vocal about it.

“[My parents] talk about it, and they don’t want to have to be the ones with the guns,” Reiff said. “They don’t want to know [how to] do that.”

So far, Talawanda is seeking different safety measures than HB99. Morrish co-chairs the Talawanda district safety team, which writes procedure and protocol for violence-preventative programs.

“We are very active with safety training both for staff and for students,” Morrish said. “We do our very best to communicate with our families.”

Amy Macechko, who works as Wellness Coordinator for Talawanda, said she works to teach the community how schools and parents share the responsibility for their students’ wellbeing. 

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“We offer opportunities for parents to grow in their knowledge and their skills on how to help their kids make good choices and develop important skills of self-regulation,” Macechko said. “We very much invest in parents and families as a key part of our [violence] prevention work.”

Reiff said Talawanda always takes safety seriously – several bomb-threat pranks in the past year resulted in lockdowns.

Macechko also serves on the Health Coordinating Council, composed of faculty and community experts evaluating how students can improve not only academically, but also in their personal lives. 

“Our school counselors go into classrooms and teach a social-emotional learning curriculum called Second Step,” she said. “We look at strategies for all students and more targeted interventions for students at different risk levels.”

Macechko noted that besides the mental health initiatives, a school resource officer protects students in every building.

“You will see our school resource officers connecting with students every chance they get, whether it’s in the lunchroom at the elementary level, opening milk cartons for kids or just engaging them in conversation,” she said. “We know that a safe and secure building is one with very positive, healthy relationships.”