Some RH teachers will have access to guns

Published 9:41 am Sunday, September 28, 2014

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

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“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 stored loaded, ever.”

Trained staff will have access to ammunition as well.

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 saying 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 kids 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.

The specialized training received by faculty at the Tactical Defense Institute (TDI) is through a partnership with the Buckeye Firearms Institute and outlines three main objectives, which are recognizing signs of an active shooter, armed response and trauma care.

“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 the safest schools 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.”

Staff authorized by the board must meet and maintain certain qualifications. A screening process by the superintendent, a concealed carry permit, 27 hours of additional TDI training, passage of Ohio Peace Officer Training Academy (OPOTA) Firearms qualification, semiannual firearms requirements set by OPOTA and periodic background checks are required.

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.

President of Buckeye Firearms Foundation Jim Irvine said arming staff is becoming the norm.

“Those who remain skeptical are basing their decisions on outdated information,” he said. “The experts have unanimously agreed that the quickest way to save lives is by having a response from within the school versus waiting an undetermined amount of time for an external response and we applaud Rock Hill for setting the bar and taking the steps necessary to protect our children and way of life.”