As the United States continues to attempt to grapple with the ongoing threat of gun violence in schools, two first graders in an Ohio school district have now been revealed to have themselves become vulnerable to injury and even death from a program to arm school staff as an attempt at countering potential violence. In a mid-March incident, the pair of students were left alone with a gun that had been legally brought to the Highland Elementary School campus near Sparta, Ohio. The handgun had been left in an unlocked case while its owner went to the bathroom, and when a different staffer came in the office where two students had been left behind — they found the gun on the table in front of them.
The incident played out at a district transportation office that was just a short walk from the actual school building itself. There, transportation director Vicky Nelson left her grandson and fellow first grader and assistant transportation director Christine Scaffidi’s granddaughter alone with her pistol for enough time for one of them to seemingly take it out of the case and fiddle with it.
The incident was never reported to police, although in its wake, Superintendent Dan Freund removed Nelson from the school district’s concealed carry program and suspended her without pay for three days. He says he became “physically sick” when hearing about it and notes that “people were horrified.” Local Morrow County Sheriff John L. Hinton says he “likely would have investigated had he known” about the incident after it actually happened instead of learning about it only recently after a Facebook post summarizing the incident.
Concealed carry programs that allow educational staff to bring weapons onto school grounds in an effort to deter violence have been spreading, including specifically across Ohio. Buckeye Firearms Association President Jim Irvine estimates that around 100 school districts across the state have some kind of concealed carry program in place, noting that security plans involving firearm usage are exempt from legislation demanding public review of certain school safety policies. Irvine trains some of those involved in these programs, although he didn’t train Highland staff, quipping that it’s “very fortunate” the mid-March incident “didn’t turn into a catastrophic event.”
Throughout recent years, schools have often become the sites of mass shootings. Just last year, an attacker killed 17 people at a Parkland, Florida, high school. In the wake of that incident, while also enacting change like raising the minimum age for firearm purchases from 18 to 21, Florida authorities eventually also enacted a policy allowing for the arming of teachers. That legislative push unfolded in a legislative session the year after the Parkland shooting actually took place.
There have also been significant pushes on the national level to enact some kind of similar plan. President Donald Trump himself has expressed support for the idea of arming teachers, although incidents like this newly revealed one out of Ohio illustrate just how this idea could go off the rails with dangerous results. According to the Gun Violence Archive, there have been a full 1,002 and counting unintentional shooting incidents in the United States so far this year — what would you expect if we keep spreading guns around?
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