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But in some cases, school staff and others are allowed to carry guns on school grounds. In some states, existing legislation allowed for exemptions to restrictions on guns in schools. In the case of Ohio, school boards can grant permission for teachers, staff or others to carry guns in schools.
One district that is doing so is Newcomerstown Exempted Village School District in eastern Ohio, which approved the idea in June. Superintendent Jeff Staggs says that although employees carrying guns would probably have not been the first choice for helping to protect students, budget restrictions and the relative isolation of the district played a role in the decision.
"I would have to lay off teachers to have enough money to hire a school resource officer," says Staggs. In addition to budget concerns, response time was a factor in the decision. With the village of Newcomerstown itself in a fiscal emergency, there are only two full-time police officers on duty at any given time, which means that in an emergency, the school district would have to rely on the county sheriff's department, which is about 25 miles away.
"The sheriff has given his blessing for this program because of the response time," says Staggs, who says that he's received limited feedback from the community, but has had parents say they do feel their children are safer.
Any employee who wishes to carry a concealed weapon in school — the district does not permit open carry — has to first obtain a concealed carry license from the state, then undergo 60 additional hours of training. The license, additional training, gun, and ammunition all must be purchased at the employee's expense. Staggs, citing the need to protect some details of the schools' security plans, declined to say how many staff members are currently carrying concealed weapons.
Ultimately, Staggs says, the district is trying to make the best of its financial and geographical limitations.
"If we could've afforded a school resource officer, that's what we would have done," he says.
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