DeWine creates School Safety Center to deal with shootings, threats

Gov. Mike DeWine established the Ohio School Safety Center Wednesday to centralize efforts to stop shootings and identify students who could be public safety risks.

Using an executive order, the governor created the group which will have seven staffers to work with schools around the state.

The action comes just weeks after the mass shooting in the Oregon District where nine people and the gunman were killed.

“One of the things I have learned over the years is that if you are serious about a problem, you have to have people who get up in the morning every day and that’s their job, their sole job,” DeWine said.

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State Sen. Peggy Lehner, chair of the Ohio Senate Education Committee, said she thinks Dayton-area school districts will have a heightened appreciation for the initiative as school and community safety is on the minds of everyone in the community following the Oregon District shooting on Aug. 4.

Some local school leaders praised the governor’s move.

“I think that the strongest aspect of Governor Dewine’s order is that it brings many of the initiatives under the purview of a single department so that efforts along these lines can be better coordinated,” said Greg Williams, New Lebanon Schools Superintendent. “New Lebanon schools currently engage in all of the initiatives listed in the article already, but we have had to go find our own resources for many of the items.”

The Ohio School Safety Center will be an office within the Homeland Security section of the Department of Public Safety. It is planned to be a centralized resource to help detect threats and prevent school shootings, according to a Columbus Dispatch report.

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“I think time is going to tell what those resources are and how useful they are,” said Lehner, R-Kettering. “Shining the light on this issue of school violence, I think, is an important thing to do and I think we will probably receive rewards from it (Ohio School Safety Center) that we won’t even anticipate at this point.”

The governor said he expects the center to grow, but he identified at least seven things the members of the center will do:

* Intelligence analysts will scan social media looking for threats, analyzing them and sharing the information with law enforcement and schools.

* The group will help educate school staff, students and community members on using the Safer Ohio tipline, which accepts anonymous calls and texts on safety and school violence.

* It will consolidate resources for school safety on Ohio’s SaferSchools website, with a current list of available and upcoming training.

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* Center staff will review school safety plans and emergency management plans and give technical support for schools that request it.

* It will build a threat assessment team model policy and offer training for schools on that evidence-based model via which schools can triage threats of violence.

* The center will hold a summit at least annually to share best practices with schools around the state.

* And it will establish the Ohio School Safety working group – which DeWine said will have members announced in the next few days. This group of experts in schools, law enforcement, mental health and other areas will meet at least quarterly, and will issue a report at least annually on school safety.

Mad River Local Schools Superintendent, Chad Wyen said he personally feels having a school safety summit annually to discuss best practices will be the most beneficial resource the new center can provide. Reflecting the feelings of Williams, Wyen said the resource will be a consolidated way that schools and districts can share authentic strategies and experiences that can be replicated to help keep students, staff and families safe.

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“Mad River currently has a system in place for social media monitoring in partnership with the Montgomery County Educational Service Center,” Wyen said. “Mad River has a tip line through our district website and app which is used to anonymously report bullying, safety concerns, or immediate threats.”

In order for the consolidated resource to be an effective school safety tool, Wyen said, the Ohio School Safety Center needs to be easy to find and navigate.

Wednesday’s school safety announcement comes on the heels of DeWine’s call for new gun legislation following a verbal push from Daytonians.

At an evening vigil in the Oregon District on Sunday, August 4, hours after a gunman killed nine and injured more than 30 in the Oregon District, the crowd chanted at the governor to “do something.”

“I understand that anger,” DeWine said. “Some chanted ‘do something’ and they were absolutely right. We must do something and that is exactly what we are going to do.”

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DeWine proposed a new version of a “red flag law” that the legislature has considered in the past. Red flag laws, also known as extreme protection orders, allow police or close family members to get a court order to remove firearms from someone who appears to be a danger to themselves or others. DeWine also called for stronger background checks, the improvement of access to mental health treatment and an increase in penalties for people who break the law when it comes to buying, selling or owning firearms.

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