Some Mahoning Valley school districts are continuing efforts to change protocols so their buildings are safer for their students, as well as adults working in and around the facilities.
The superintendents of the LaBrae, Lakeview and Niles school districts all say the districts have done what they financially can to improve safety in their buildings and on their campuses.
Superintendents are also reacting to the law signed by Gov. Mike DeWine that allows educators to carry guns on school property with just 24 hours of training.
Under the new law, the local school district will determine whether it wishes to allow its educators/employees to carry weapons on school grounds with the proper training.
Ohio Education Association President Scott DiMauro noted that educators need to be in safe environments where they can focus on teaching and learning, not the threat of having people terribly underserved. trained unprepared – no matter how well intentioned – making life or death decisions in a split second. whether to pull the trigger in a chaotic classroom full of innocent bystanders.
“It would take hundreds of hours of firearms training and practice to be ready for these situations; Governor DeWine says he’s fine with just 24 hours of instruction,” says Di Mauro. “It’s absurd.”
Educators should be trusted to do the work for which they have spent years of training; instead, they are being asked to shoulder the burden of potentially shooting one of their own students with only a few days of training, the OAS president noted.
Will Schwartz of the Ohio Schools Boards Association said the organization hasn’t taken a specific position on House Bill 99.
He added, however, that local control is an essential part of OSBA. He believes that local community school boards should have the right to make decisions that reflect the ideals of the people living in those communities.
LaBrae Superintendent Anthony J. Calderone said school districts are not required to discuss their protocols for keeping people safe in their buildings. But he noted that the district annually reviews security protocols and makes adjustments as needed.
“We tend to think of our security plan as layers with one aspect building on the other,” he said. “Over several years, we have been able to make adjustments to our plan to improve overall safety.”
The district communicated some of its safety concerns directly to DeWine’s office.
“Our district has brought safety concerns and ideas to the governor’s office to encourage the state to consider grant funding and designing schools that improve safety,” said Calderon. “We applied for a security grant this winter. The grant was awarded through the Ohio Facilities Construction Commission, but Ohio declined the grant. We are now pursuing funding the project on our own and implementing the feature in the near future. »
The district has a school resource officer who is paid with money from the district’s general fund.
“We do not intend to add an additional officer”, said Calderon.
The superintendent said the last time arming teachers was a focal point related to the discussion of school safety in Ohio, the LaBrae school board was not in favor of arming staff.
“In the new law, Ohio reduced the training requirements necessary for personnel to carry a weapon,” said Calderon. “Districts will proceed with caution under the new regulations to ensure that making such a choice is in their local best interests, as this is not a black or white issue, but a very nuanced problem that is more complicated than it appears on the surface.”
Lakeview Superintendent Velina J. Taylor noted that the district was doing several things to improve safety in its buildings before she became superintendent.
The district installed a second set of entrance doors at the high school to better control who enters the building. He used the grant money to improve communication systems for all staff so that in an emergency they would not be dependent on telephones.
“Of course, if necessary, we complete and revise our emergency operations plans for the district and for our individual buildings at least once a year,” Taylor said.“This is a collaborative process that involves security services personnel as well as our staff, so key players who would be involved in an emergency are aware of district plans.”
This is not the first time the idea of arming teachers has been pushed in the state.
“Frankly, I don’t see arming personnel as a viable solution at the moment,” she says.
Taylor said she believes when district employees return in the fall, they will be more diligent in their security measures.
“As these horrific murders unfold, we are reminded that you can never be too careful when it comes to your own safety and the safety of others,” she says.
Niles Superintendent Ann Marie Thigpen described the district installing a vestibule in her college.
“The college was built before the other three new Niles buildings, which had vestibule areas designed into their constructions”, she says. “We’ve created a new entrance for visitors that takes them to a waiting area and not the school or office.”
Thigpen said the district was looking for a product from a security window company to place on the glass doors at the entrances to all of its buildings.
The district is looking to increase the number of school resource officers from one full-time and a second person who works four hours a day to two full-time SROs.
Arming teachers is not something Thigpen expressed enthusiastically.
“I am concerned about the introduction of firearms into our schools and the arming of staff members,” she says.
TRUMBULL COUNTY ESC
Superintendent Michael Hanshaw of the Trumbull County Educational Services Center stressed that it is up to individual school districts to develop school emergency management plans that are sent to the state for review and approval.
Hanshaw suggests these plans cannot be discussed publicly to maintain their integrity and provide the highest level of safety and security possible.
“As educators, we are well aware of the concerns of our students and their parents, our staff and communities at large,” he said. “Trumbull County ESC and our aligned school districts take considerable care in developing and reviewing safety plans and working with our staff and community leaders, including law enforcement and their emergency management personnel, to prioritizing the safety and well-being of the more than 24,000 Trumbull County students we collectively serve and represent.
Superintendent Steve Chiaro, the head of Trumbull County’s largest public school district, declined to discuss the district’s safety measures.