Tuscarawas County school district votes to arm staff

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ZOARVILLE, Ohio - School may be out but a change is on the way for the safety of students after Tuscarawas Valley Local Schools approved a resolution to arm employees with guns.

"I believe that nobody cares about the safety of our kids like educators do," said Tuscarawas County Sheriff Orvis Campbell.

The sheriff says it's a policy he supports given the nearly 600 square miles in his jurisdiction. If tragedy strikes, every second that passes to get a deputy to the scene could result in the loss of life.

"People don't call 911 immediately; they're too busy running for their lives," said Sheriff Campbell. "Typically there's no warning; the warning comes with the first shot."

Specific details about the school safety plan including when and how it would be adopted will remain confidential, according to the superintendent. Sheriff Campbell says he will offer CCW training for school staff members that qualify free of charge. However, not all parents are on board with the decision.

"I'm kind of indecisive about the whole thing," said parent Maria Kline. "I'm not sure if it's good, or if it's bad because it's new to this area."

Sheriff Campbell says the school district is the third in his jurisdiction behind Newcomerstown Exempt Village Schools and Indian Valley Local Schools to arm school staff.

Due to safety concerns, the identities of individuals who carry will not be known to students or other staff members, according to Sheriff Campbell.

In a statement, Superintendent Mark Murphy explained the decision behind the controversial move.

"Educating with excellence and ensuring safe, positive learning environments are our main objectives. We are committed to continuously updating our safety standards given the reality and challenges we face today. The Board of Education unanimously approved a resolution to arm employees at its meeting Monday. None of us are excited about the endeavor, yet it is a significant safety measure the Board has authorized.

Details of the district's Emergency Safety Plan are confidential, including specifics regarding individuals to be armed, training requirements, timeline, etc. These matters will be held in the strictest of confidence. I will emphasize, however, employees to be armed will meet very stringent requirements, along with ongoing training and certifications.

The Board and I are extremely grateful for the attendance, involvement, and positive feedback received at the district's safety forum held in March. Clearly, parent and community guidance was for the district to continue investigating alternative safety measures, including, but not limited to, surveillance upgrades, safety equipment/technology, and arming employees to protect our children.

Personally, I find it troubling that we even have to discuss these types of measures. We trust that we never have to address an active shooter in our schools, yet if need be, we will do whatever it takes to keep students and staff safe, reduce loss, and save lives."

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