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Some Rock Hill teachers will have access to guns

PEDRO — Rock Hill Schools Superintendent Wes Hairston admits it wasn’t one of the easier or more popular decisions he has made.

“It was a tough decision,” Hairston told his faculty and staff on Friday in the middle school gymnasium. “I talked to union leadership about a month ago and I told them what we were doing.”

Hairston announced that “quite a few” teachers from the district had completed specialized tactical defense training and were certified for in-school armed response in the event of an active shooter.

“We have to be prepared for whatever could happen,” Hairston said. “At some point there is a very good possibility we are going to face a situation. We have sent quite a few people to the Tactical Defense Institute to train with firearms. The tragedy is we have to even talk about doing things like that.”

The presence and location of the guns as well as the identity of the teachers will only become known in the event of an active shooter.

“Not one single person has ever seen a gun and you will never see one,” he said. “Guns are never loaded, ever.”

The certified teachers will also have access to ammunition that would be used to load the guns.

When threats were made against schools in Ironton and Greenup, Hairston said he evaluated those occurrences and determined Rock Hill could stop such a thing from happening.

“Not everything is going to be liked and not everything is going to be popular and I’m OK with that, I can accept it,” Hairston said. “What I’ll never accept is putting our children or staff in harm’s way by sticking my head in the sand and say it’s not going to happen to us. I could care less about public opinion. I will, to the best of my ability, protect our 1,500 students any way I can.”

Ohio Revised Code 2923.122 allows certain people to have guns on school property with written authorization from the school board. A copy of the law was distributed to faculty and staff.

“There’s going to people opposed to it, and that’s fine,” he said. “This is serious stuff and only a fool believes this can’t happen.”

Lawrence County Sheriff Jeff Lawless praised Hairston and said Rock Hill is one of, if not the, safest school in Lawrence County.

“Introducing weapons in school happens because seconds count,” he said. “In the absence of a neutralizer, tragedies happen. For someone to be able to neutralize makes this district much safer. This is the right decision.”

The decision, Hairston said, was made for only one reason.

“This isn’t about liberal versus conservative, Democrat versus Republican,” he said. “This is about protecting the students and employees of our school. I know some of you may not like it, but I hope you respect my decision. We need to be prepared for anything that could happen at this school.”

Lawless and Hairston are privy to the identity of the trained teachers.