Family Against Armed Teachers Sues Madison, Ohio, School Board For Suppressing Free Speech
Three years after 14-year-old James “Austin” Hancock walked into an Ohio school with a handgun hidden in his lunchbox and fired shots, injuring four, a judge ruled that teachers in the district could conceal carry without 700-plus hours of training.
But some locals feel their First Amendment right to free speech on the issue has been suppressed.
Butler County Judge Charles Pater ruled against requiring 700-plus hours of police-level training for teachers who wish to carry at school Thursday because district policy only requires 27 hours of training for those who are not security personnel, WPCO Cincinnati reports. Pater ruled that teachers are not considered “security personnel,” so they do not need to go through the regular training required of law enforcement to conceal carry.
“Our primary concern has been and continues to be the safety of our students,” Madison Superintendent Lisa Tuttle-Huff said, “and what works for our community may not work for others. While this policy has received a substantial amount of attention, it is just one of many steps that have been taken to ensure student safety.”
What works for the Madison community, indeed, does not work for one Ohio family, who sued the Madison Local School board of intimidation and censorship Wednesday just before the ruling. (RELATED: There Are Fewer School Shootings Than The Government Says)
The group of five — which includes Billy Ison, the grandfather of an 18-year-old enrolled at a Madison public school, and four others connected to Ison — filed suit Wednesday in the U.S. District Court in Cincinnati, according to the Butler County Journal-News.
They claim the school board violated their free speech rights by going to extreme lengths to limit their ability to partake in public meetings.
“The school board has engaged in a concerted campaign designed to chill and silence plaintiffs from further public criticism of its actions,” the lawsuit reads, “by imposing prior restraints on plaintiffs’ ability to participate in public meetings and by fabricating requirements as barriers to public participation that do not appear in the school board’s written rules.”
The lawsuit also claims Ison was physically removed from one of the public school meetings last May, and those who wish to speak at said meetings must register two days prior and provide a form of district identification. These requirements, however, do not appear in the district’s public participation rules, the Journal-News explains.
Additionally, the lawsuit claims Ison’s daughter is intimidated at meetings by two armed deputies who stand beside her when she speaks, and her boyfriend is no longer allowed to attend the meetings he once took part in because he no longer lives in the district. Ison says the board threatened to remove him from meetings if he used the words “pro-gun agenda.”
At a hearing regarding the 700-plus hours vs. 27 hours of training for armed teachers, Ison told reporters that instead of the school board focusing on his lawsuit, they should instead put more funds toward experienced law enforcement professionals.
“Somebody needs to stand up and say, ‘You cannot dominate or intimidate members of our community in order to put your pro-gun agenda in this school. It won’t be tolerated by some of us.'” (RELATED: MSNBC Contributor: Armed Teachers Might Shoot Minority Students)
Tuttle-Huff wrote in a statement regarding the lawsuit:
These allegations are a gross mischaracterization and will be dealt with in court. There is nothing unlawful about the Madison Local School Board’s regulation of public participation at its meetings. The board fully complies with the Ohio Open Meetings Act, and throughout the process of deciding whether to authorize certain personnel to carry firearms on school property, the board has provided a forum for all viewpoints. It is unfortunate that a small number of individuals feel compelled to resort to litigation, but the board will defend decisions it believes to be in the best interest of the Madison community.
This is the second lawsuit filed against the school board after the gun policy allowing teachers to carry was initiated in April 2018.
The Madison Local School Board did not respond for further comment in time for the publication of this article.