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'Our schools will no longer be soft targets': Rural school district in Ohio to allow some teachers, staff to carry firearms

Composite screenshot of River Valley Local Schools website (Main: Heritage Elementary School | Featured: Superintendent Adam Wickham)

A school district in a rural area of Ohio will soon have at least one armed staff member at each of its four schools, the district superintendent said.

Superintendent Adam Wickham of the River Valley Local School District in Caledonia, Ohio, about an hour north of Columbus, confirmed the new policy in a recent interview with the Marion Star.

"Our schools will no longer be soft targets and unprotected," Wickham said. "Most active shooter events occur in areas of 'gun-free zones' or with minimal safety measures in place. We want to ensure our schools will not be soft targets."

Wickham also stated that armed staff in each school is necessary in a remote village like Caledonia, which may not be easily accessible for law enforcement in the event of an active shooter, as happened in Parkland, Florida; Uvalde, Texas; and most recently, Nashville, Tennessee.

"As a rural community, response times can often be minutes away in the event of an active shooter," Wickham explained. "The use of armed staff in our buildings can potentially save lives by providing a more immediate response to the threat."

To "ensure our staff and students can go home safely to their families and loved ones each and every day," Wickham said that each school in the district — two elementary schools, one middle school, and a high school — will have at least one armed teacher or staff member. Before carrying a firearm on a River Valley campus, designated teachers and staff must first undergo 24 hours of firearms training in accordance with a new state law.

Last June, Governor Mike DeWine (R) signed House Bill 99 into law, which gives individual school districts the options to permit armed staff on school campuses. Every Democrat in the Ohio House and Senate voted against the bill, while nearly every Republican voted for it, meaning that the measure passed easily since Republicans hold a sizeable majority in both chambers.

Thus far, 22 of the 611 school districts in the state of Ohio have availed themselves of armed staff since the law passed. River Valley now makes 23. Though some parents harbor reservations about the new policy, Wickham said that the majority of the community supports it.

"The vast majority of parents have expressed appreciation for the proactive approach in protecting their children," Wickham claimed. "That is really a main reason for adopting the use of armed staff."

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