Several schools in Northwest Ohio have been targeted by threats from students and the incidents have reminded everyone why constant vigilance is needed. The schools have cooperated with local police and kept parents informed on what was going on. All the affected districts have kept their specific information of incidents close to the vest. The response has been swift in some cases.
The Hilltop School Board upheld the expulsion of a student believed to be the perpetrator of one such incident. School officials and the West Unity Chief of Police would not confirm or deny any information related to the case.
The incidents followed the shooting at a school in Broward County, Florida, in which 17 people were killed by a former student armed with a semi-automatic weapon.
Other threats were reported in Bryan, Pioneer, Archbold, Edgerton and Swanton.
At Bryan, school officials sent a notice out to parents following the discovery of a threat made against the school in mid-February.
“As you were aware, we had to send out a district alert … regarding a threat a student made toward our school, Superintendent Diana Savage stated. “The threat surfaced in the very late evening hours last night.”
“As we put the safety and well-being of the students and staff of the building at the highest priority, we worked through the night with local police and public office figures to ensure all aspects of the situation are getting covered.”
The next day, Bryan Police were present in the district in the morning. Officials hoped the presence of the police would make everyone feel at ease with a “strong safety net” around them, Savage stated.
“We continue to work with the police department, as this is an on-going investigation,” Savage said.
Bryan City Schools will host a special board meeting to address school safety at 7 p.m., March 13 at the Bryan MS/HS Commons.
The meeting will be a forum that is designed to provide an opportunity for families and community members to learn more about school safety measures in place and ask questions of a community panel. Guests will include school board members, Savage, Mayor Carrie Schlade, Bryan Police Chief Mike Willis, Former Bryan Police Chief and School Resource Officer Jeff Arnold. The event is open to the public. Anyone is welcome to attend.
Wauseon reported an incident Feb. 21 when a High School student made threatening comments before the start of a class period. After students reported the incident to the WHS office, the Wauseon Police Department was immediately informed of the situation.
The student in question admitted to making the comments and was immediately removed in handcuffs from the school building. A thorough search of this student’s locker and personal belongings uncovered no weapons or dangerous items. Therefore, the building was not placed into a lockdown situation.
Parents of WHS students were informed via the PowerAnnouncement system of this incident.
The district had installed 200 temporary door locking systems teachers can use in case of a lockdown. The devices are authorized by the Fire Chief’s Association, Superintendent Larry Brown said. He added these actions preceded the incident.
The Wauseon Administrative Team recently conducted a simulated threat training exercise with assistance from the Fulton County Emergency Management Agency and members of the Wauseon Police Department.
Additionally, a functional exercise is planned for this year. In the past, a delegation of the eight Wauseon Fire Department, Wauseon Police Department and Wauseon staff members participated in a weeklong institute on Multi-Hazard Emergency Planning for Schools.
The school district has installed four MARCS system communication devices in the district with grant funds from the state. These two-way radio systems are strategically located in each of our schools and provide instant access to first responders with a push of a single button.
The district conducts a variety of safety drills including lockdowns, emergency evacuations, reverse evacuations to bring students from the outside into a safer location, and other coordinated drills.
The district staff has completed ALICE training and our students have received an ALICE Overview through INTV produced videos or direct guidance from local law enforcement agencies.
Wauseon Exempted Village Schools are a participant of the Ohio Safer Schools Tip Line at 844-723-3764. This number is monitored by Ohio Homeland Security Analysts and calls may be made anonymously using the tip line. School officials are then contacted when any creditable threat is received.
The district has initiated the services of Navigate Prepared for the development of our revised safety plans, drill logs, call lists, safety documents, floor plans and safety flipcharts. This online service will be the sole location for us to organize, store and revised our safety planning needs as necessary. Wauseon Schools cares about our students and we concur with Navigate Prepared motto of “For Our Kids…When Seconds Count.” That is why we are implementing this system along with other improvements to our safety planning.
Another incident occurred at North Central Schools where the Pioneer Police Department was involved. This occurred Feb. 20 where several students at NC Schools were talking about the South Florida incident, scenarios were discussed, conversation was also exchanged amongst students. This is expected after such an incident and in many cases encouraged to allow for our youth to understand the continued efforts needed to safeguard our schools as well as themselves.
In an isolated incident preceding this conversation comments had been made about a school shooting between two youths. This matter in a joint investigation between the Pioneer Police Department and NC School Staff is being looked at thoroughly.
There was no threat to staff or students, but officials stated they take every situation seriously and will “investigate it fully to ensure the utmost safety of our students, staff and our community.”
North Central Superintendent William Hanak, said in light of recent events up to and including the incident in Parkland, Florida, the district has recently conducted staff training to continuously train and educate our educators and staff if such an event were to take place in our community.
“In a joint effort, the Pioneer Police Department, Williams County Sheriff’s Office and NC School staff and administrators will continue to address issues, train for today and our future for the safety of our schools. It is our intention to announce and not alarm any of our parents or citizens within the NC Schools community. However, an obligation to share information is an important step in moving forward,” Hanak said.
“We have been working all year to make the buildings safer.”
Those actions include new safety plans, parking lots redone for safe ingress and egress. Locking all doors inside and out all the time, new curtains for each room’s door for cover of windows, and ID badges for staff.
“We just did the Safer training (Williams County program) for our (Feb. 16) as a planned Professional Day. We are planning more safety drills for the spring as well. (The) biggest thing is we must report when something happens,” Hanak said.
Thinking of safety is a constant topic at Archbold Schools, Superintendent Aaron Rex said. Safety drills, required by state law, are run throughout the year.
“At Archbold, we practice lockdowns, evacuations, ALICE (Alert, Lockdown, Inform, Counter, and Evacuate),” Rex said. In addition, we do scenarios with our staff and students. All of these help our students and staff to prepare just as they would during a fire drill.”
Archbold has one secure entrance at each building where visitors must come through the office. In addition, all doors in the buildings to the classrooms remain locked throughout the day.
“We are working with our local police to have them in the buildings at various times during the day.
These recent events have caused us to continue to look at our current practices and we continue to do the best we can to prepare and keep everyone safe,” Rex said.
Pettisville officials were mum on specifics but Superintendent Steve Switzer did offer some general approaches. The philosophy is all educational objectives are secondary to insuring the safety and well-being of our students.
Our emergency plans are updated and reviewed annually.
Some of what is happening at Pettisville includes:
Planning to install cell boosters throughout the entire building to assist with communication, but especially during an emergency.
Upgrading the security camera system to provide expanded coverage and improved resolution, in real time.
Enable monitoring of exits to remotely determine if any doors are not latched or are propped open.
Continually seek ways to improve building security
“As far as current security measures such as locked doors and limited access, while no security measures are infallible, any efforts that we can take to make our buildings more secure will deter unwanted access and place roadblocks to unauthorized access,” Switzer said.
A school resource officer is credited with helping Swanton, Superintendent Chris Lake said.
“We are lucky enough to have a school resource officer provided by the village of Swanton. Our SRO works hand-in-hand with the administration to go over our safety plans and to conduct drills in all the buildings. He also spends a good deal of time in each building during the week, so he has built up a rapport with the students,” Lake said. “Additionally, all of our buildings have security cameras to help us monitor the grounds.
“My administrators have all done a good job of creating a climate where students know that they can report anything suspicious to a teacher or principal and it will be dealt with in confidence.
Swanton Schools dealt with the vague Facebook post recently that mentioned an SHS. Working in cooperation with the Swanton Police school officials determined that it was not an actual threat against Swanton High School.
There was a second incident, this time a middle school student made a threat during a lunch period. That matter was immediately brought to the attention of the school administration and with the help of Swanton PD the student was questioned.
The police conducted a threat assessment and it was determined that there was not a true threat to the school. A Swanton police representative said the incident sprang from a student trying to funny about an exercise linked to the school’s “No One Eats Alone,” campaign.
Students were to fill out a form that stated, “If I ever saw someone eat alone.” This student wrote “shoot up the school.”
The school handled the disciplining of the student.
Pike-Delta-York Superintendent Ted Hanselman offered his take.
“As schools, we have our families most important possession—their sons and daughters. Student safety is the most serious item on the list of responsibilities for school districts and is of utmost importance at Pike-Delta-York.
“PDY completes safety training drills in all buildings regularly. All visitors to PDY buildings must enter the school through the main office and are required to be buzzed into the building by staff members. “Additionally, this school year every classroom in the district had a protection device installed to restrict entry into classrooms should a building be required to enter lockdown mode for the safety of our students and staff.
“While we pray we will never need to use this newly installed tool, we know we are not immune and having the system in place as a precaution for the safety of students and staff is important. PDY has adopted the saying “See something, say something.”
The staff stresses to students to speak with adults should they see, hear, or feel they know something that should be investigated.
“The relationship with the Delta Police Department is strong and they know they are welcome in the district buildings at any time; fortunately, Delta PD has accepted this invitation and is present in PDY buildings often.”
The students appear to be taking the matter seriously.
“We have seen students be more vigilant recently,” Hanselman said. “The staff continues to remind students about the ‘See something, say something’ motto and students are taking it more seriously.”
“In addition to regular drills, all of our buildings have scheduled Table Top Discussions to review safety procedures with key district stakeholders and local first responders.”
The Village Reporter will have more on this in an upcoming issue.
James can be reached at email@example.com