Districts boost security after school shootings

Clark County plans to add deputies in schools.

Area school districts have been busy making a number of security updates at their schools since the shooting massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary three months ago.

Some districts have beefed up police presence in their buildings, while others are updating entrances to make them more secure by adding buzz-in access systems, video cameras or security card readers for staff members to scan.

One district has changed the way it greets visitors and now looks for verbal and visual behavior cues before letting someone into the building — including parents. Another local district received a state-approved “waiver” day to offer day-long security training to staff on April 8.

The Ohio Attorney General’s Office reports that all schools throughout the Miami Valley now have safety plans on file. Only three schools in the state — all private schools that are outside of this area — are not compliant, according to a list provided by that office. The attorney general reminded schools of the importance of having them on file in the wake of the deadly shooting of three high school students in Chardon, Ohio, last year, and again after the Newtown, Conn., massacre.

The Springfield News-Sun contacted more than 20 school districts in Montgomery, Greene, Miami, Warren, Preble, Butler and Clark counties about security-related changes made since Dec. 14 when 20 children and six staff members were fatally shot at the school in Newtown.

Locally, the enhanced security in some cases comes with increased school and police cooperation and little or no additional expense to the districts or taxpayers.

Superintendent David Estrop said he and Police Chief Steve Moody presented to the Board of Education and “made no recommendation to arm anyone other than Springfield police officers serving in some capacity in our schools.”

Those police officers — who are all in uniform, armed and have been in the schools for several years — include School Resource Officers at the middle schools, high school and the alternative school, DARE officers at the elementary level and patrol officers who visit schools during the day.

Clark County commissioners plan to spend more than $96,000 this year and $118,000 next year to hire deputies to boost school security.

The program will start June 1 and allow the Clark County Sheriff’s Office to hire two new deputies. Sheriff Gene Kelly has said the additional manpower will give him the resources needed for the program in which deputies will patrol county schools similar to the resource officers at Springfield City Schools.

Most of the area school leaders queried about security said they routinely review their procedures to see if further updates are needed. Several of them said they don’t publicly share some of those security details, however, out of safety concerns.

In Greene County, Jamestown police officers are now stationed at schools in the Greeneview Local School District. That started last week.

Springboro school officials are still studying the idea of whether to allow staff members with concealed carry permits to bring weapons onto school grounds. The school board referred the issue in January to a policy committee to evaluate.

Fairborn City Schools recently signed up for the Ohio Department of Education offer to use a waiver day for security training.

“The district applied for the waiver because we believe it is very important that all of our staff have the best training possible in the event of an emergency,” district spokeswoman Pam Gayheart said, adding it will include new training and a review of all of the district’s safety plans.

Northridge Local Schools Superintendent Dave Jackson said all of their school doors are locked and they use a buzz-in entry system. Still, they now greet visitors differently, seeking verbal and visual responses to get a feel for a guest’s purpose and attitude.

“Any guest who appears upset or verbally aggressive will not be granted access to the building,” Jackson said.

The new policy followed a Dec. 19 incident in which deputies were called to the Timberlane Learning Center after a mother, who was wanted to sign her child out for the day, began yelling at the secretary.

Northmont school district, meanwhile, is focused on upgrading entrances to make them more secure by August.

Northmont spokeswoman Jenny Wood said the district moved up its security updates after Sandy Hook. Before it was fast tracked, the plan had called for phasing in the updates over the next two years “to spread costs into a manageable timeline given the loss of $2.4 million in state and federal funding just in the past two years,” she said.