Wednesday, December 5, 2018
By Ed Runyan
A Warren City Schools teacher whose gun, ammunition, machete and two knives were stolen from his Jeep in the Warren G. Harding High School parking lot Oct. 30 has served a two-day unpaid suspension for an infraction of school rules regarding weapons on school property.
The infractions were for the teacher having knives in his vehicle, not the gun, according to a disciplinary letter.
Kirk Zellers of Bristolville, a special-education teacher in the district since 1997, learned his punishment Thursday after a Wednesday fact-finding hearing.
He served his suspension Thursday and Friday, and he was allowed to return to work Monday, according to a Nov. 29 letter to Zellers obtained by The Vindicator.
The letter says Zellers, 58, or his representatives told school officials Zellers had the machete in his vehicle to clear brush at a property he recently acquired near Geneva-On-The-Lake. Zellers provided documentation showing that the purchase took place four days before the items were stolen from his Jeep.
One knife was on a boat he recently sold. He removed it from the boat and was carrying it in a backpack in his vehicle, the letter says.
The second knife was locked in the center console of the vehicle and could be used to break a car window or cut a seat belt in the event that his vehicle was submerged in water, such as in a lake, the letter says. The gun was also in the console.
Jim Irvine, president of the Buckeye Firearms Association, told The Vindicator an Ohio law passed in 2017 allows gun owners to keep a gun in their locked motor vehicle in a school zone.
It bans a public or private employer from enforcing a policy that stops people with a valid concealed-handgun license from storing it or ammunition if it is locked in the trunk, glove box or other enclosed compartment of container in the vehicle.
Zellers has a valid concealed-handgun license, the letter says.
School policy “prohibits professional staff members from possessing, storing, making or using a weapon, including a concealed weapon, in a school safety zone,” according to a copy of the policy provided by schools Superintendent Steve Chiaro. A school safety zone appears to include all school property and some situations off school grounds.
Chiaro, who represented the school district at the hearing and issued the decision on Zellers’ punishment, said while Zellers “provided a rationale that one can understand [for having knives in his vehicle], nonetheless the violation is present and could have been avoided had you removed the items from your vehicle.”
Chiaro added, “Additionally, due to your irresponsible actions and neglect, the items stolen from you may now be ‘on the streets’ in the city of Warren.”
Zellers was on paid home assignment for about a month before he learned his discipline.