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Ohio purchases 'shoot houses' to use for armed teacher training

A collection of white PVC panels are configured in the format of a house. Tactical gear and fake guns lean against its side.
Kontek Industries
The Ohio School Safety Center is purchasing moveable "shoot houses" from Kontek Industries to train armed school staff.

Ohio has approved the purchase of so-called “shoot houses” to train school staff who are permitted to carry guns on school grounds.

The Ohio Controlling Board approved the $78,000 purchase of two moveable training centers last month, with the goal of providing better tactical training for armed teachers and staff. The Ohio School Safety Center, a state-run program dedicated to improving security measures at schools, said the shoot houses will allow for armed staff to simulate encounters with an active shooter.

“The more realistic we can make the training, the better prepared armed school staff will be to respond to an active shooter,” said Jay Carey, a spokesperson for the Ohio School Safety Center.

More realistic training

Two years ago, the state legislature passed HB99. It lowered required training for armed school employees from 700 to a minimum of 24 hours of training, with eight hours of requalification training each subsequent year, offered by the Ohio School Safety Center. Local school boards can set higher training requirements.

Some of that training is learning how to handle a firearm, learning deescalation techniques and administering first aid. But, at least four of those hours are expected to be scenario-based training. That’s where the shoot houses will come in.

“Currently, we have movable canvas walls that can be configured to simulate responding to an active shooter in a school, like walking down a hallway, but there are limits,” Carey said in a statement.

Ohio is in the early stages of procurement of two shoot houses from Kontek Industries.
Kontek Industries
Ohio is in the early stages of procurement of two shoot houses from Kontek Industries.

The shoot houses offer more features, like doors and windows, that Carey said will provide school staff with a more realistic training ground. Plus, he said the shoot houses are moveable, so they can be set up in large outdoor spaces, inside a school gymnasium or even used in live-fire training at firing ranges.

Kyle Newton, superintendent of Warren Local Schools in Washington County, said tactical training is necessary for armed teachers responding to an active shooter.

“If you're a shooter, you practice,” he said. “So this being a three-dimensional feel will give a whole nother level of that.”

The Ohio School Safety Center hopes to integrate the shoot houses into its training courses this summer.

Arming staff

The requirements for armed school staff has long been a debate across the state. Ohio schools began arming staff members as early as 2013, after the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary. At that time, it was up to Ohio school boards to decide what security looked like at their schools.

But, in 2021, a state court ruling mandated armed faculty to have more than 700 hours of training – the equivalent of the basic training that peace officers or armed security officers undergo.

That mandate didn’t last very long. The very next year, Governor Mike DeWine signed HB99 and dramatically reduced the requirements. The number of school districts with armed staff has shot up, nearly tripling in the last year.

Of Ohio’s 600-plus school districts, 67 have opted to arm some school staff members. Many of which are rural and worry about law enforcement response times to an active shooter situation. Superintendent of Indian Lake Schools Rob Underwood said local law enforcement in Logan County actually encouraged his district to consider arming staff.

“Our goal was never to have educators take the place of law enforcement officials,” Underwood said. “Our goal has always been to stop the threat as quickly as possible and to get people to safety as quickly as possible.”

Some school districts with armed staff emphasize it’s not the only way they’re trying to promote school safety. They point to bolstering mental health support, investing in broader security, and some are doing a lot more training than what the state requires. Warren Local Schools mandates that their armed staff shoot a hundred rounds each month to be able to carry.

‘Not a solution’

Still, the vast majority of Ohio schools do not allow guns on school property. The state’s largest teacher union, the Ohio Education Association, is opposed to arming school staff.

Scott DiMauro, president of the association, said it’s another burden to add on an already difficult job of teaching. The only ones who should be wielding guns are those who have far more than 24 hours worth of training, he said.

“We don't think that teachers should be put in that position,” he said. “But if you're going to have a district that makes that decision, for whatever reason, they need to be very well trained and the state standard is woefully inadequate.”

DiMauro said gun violence isn’t an issue that will be solved by arming staff. He said rural districts who are concerned about safety should be given more support to bring in school resource officers, the police officers that some districts hire to patrol their grounds.

The state has issued school safety grants of up to $100,000 for K-12 schools across the state to improve security technology in their buildings.

Jackson Center Schools used their grant to install a panic button for students. Still, superintendent Bill Reichert, said they want to have as many tools as possible available to them in case of an emergency – including armed staff.

“Kids can’t learn if they don’t feel safe in the place where they’re at,” Reichert said. “So we try to make sure the kids that walk through here feel safe in every regard.”

Kendall Crawford is a reporter for The Ohio Newsroom. She most recently worked as a reporter at Iowa Public Radio.