MONTPELIER, Ohio -- Janitors at Montpelier Exempted Village Schools are equipped with brooms, sponges, and dustpans to keep classrooms, corridors, and bathrooms clean and tidy.
Within the next several months, the custodial staff will be toting handguns as they carry out their daily duties in the school district buildings.
In reaction to last month's deadly shooting rampage at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut, the board of education of this Williams County school district Wednesday night unanimously voted for four janitors to carry handguns on the K-12 campus.
School officials say having armed personnel, which may be a first for any school system in Ohio, is designed to thwart incidents of violence and prevent what happened in Newtown, Conn., from occurring in Montpelier.
"Sitting back and doing nothing and hoping it doesn't happen to you is just not good policy anymore. There is a need for schools to beef up their security measures," Supertendent Jamie Grime told The Blade on Thursday.
"Having guns in the hands of the right people are not a hindrance. They are a means to protect."
School board President Larry Martin said that, while the school district began looking into arming employees about six months ago, the board didn't announce the concept publicly until Wednesday's monthly meeting.
He said the Dec. 14 slayings of 20 children and six staff at Sandy Hook heightened the decision to put the resolution on the board agenda.
"Our main goal is to offer safety for our students while they are in the classrooms and in the building," Mr. Martin said. "We have to do something and this seems like the most logical, reasonable course to go with."
Before voting on the resolution, which was approved 5-0, village Police Chief Jeffrey Lehman met with the board and superintendent in executive session to provide advice, suggestions, and his professional opinion, said Mr. Martin, a school board member for 20 years.
School officials also reviewed the resolution with the district's Cincinnati-based law firm, Ennis, Roberts, and Fischer, LPA, to determine whether gun possession by janitors in the classroom is legal under the state's concealed-carry license law.
Mr. Grime said their legal counsel advised that Ohio's gun law allows for school boards to authorize employees to possess weapons on school grounds if they pass the requirements of the concealed-carry law.
"This is not something that we decided to do, did it, and then figured out what was right and wrong. It is the right thing to do," Mr. Martin said.
Mr. Martin said that no one spoke in favor or against the measure during the part of the meeting set aside for public comment, and the community has been supportive of the decision.
"The reaction has all been positive," he said.
The school district will pay for the employees to undergo a two-day training class in mid-March, when instructors with the Tactical Defense Institute will give them a defense class on handgun use in Montpelier.
"Until the training has been completed, nobody will be carrying a concealed handgun here in school," Mr. Grime said.
The school district will not buy the handguns that will be used by the janitors. Instead, they will be paid a stipend for holstering a weapon.
School officials said the custodians, who are all men and don't belong to a collective-bargaining group, have agreed to carry guns on the job.
"We will not be forcing this upon anybody," Mr. Grime said.
Copyright 2013 - The Blade, Toledo, Ohio
McClatchy-Tribune News Service