Superintendents consider arming staff to defend against potential shooters –
By Patricia Beech –
The Florida school shooting that left 17 people dead has reignited safety talks among school leaders across the U.S.
The Valentine’s Day killing spree at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, has left many parents and guardians concerned about the safety of local schools.
According to Superintendent Richard Seas of the Ohio Valley School District (OVSD) every precaution is being taken to keep students and staff safe.
“We all know that there is no way to plan for any and all emergencies that may occur, however, having a safety ‘mindset’ is critical when dealing with any kind of school emergency.”
He said the district has contracted with safety consultant, Don Rabold of the Brown County Educational Service Center (BCESC).
“With the cooperation of the staff and students, and by running various drills at the schools, Don has helped us to have a much better mindset toward school emergencies,” he said, adding, “Nonetheless, more work is needed.”
To ensure that students are safe, each of the district schools employs a Student Resource Officer (SRO).
“They are invaluable when it comes to student and staff safety,” says Seas. “Their knowledge of what goes on outside of school as it relates to what goes inside school is key to school safety.”
Seas also says that students also have an important role to play in maintaining school safety.
“Think about the number of contacts our students have on social media,” he said, “School safety can be strengthened if students would report any and all things they encounter that may bring harm to the staff and students at school – they are definitely a key to school safety.”
Asked if he would consider arming members of the district’s staff, Seas says, yes.
“My priority, as well as those I work with, is to maintain safe schools,” he says, “Adams County is blessed to have the Tactical Defense Institute (T.D.I.) nearby, and given the rigorous training provided to the appropriate staff member, I would make that recommendation to our Board of Education.”
Just last year in Brown County, Georgetown’s school board voted to allow some faculty and staff members to carry guns.
The Georgetown staff went through Joe Eaton’s “Faster Saves Lives” training, combining gun training with medical, crisis, and emergency management skills. Eaton visits different school boards to offer training. He says “it’s sad that we’re at the point of arming teachers, but school shootings are now a national reality”.
Christopher Burrows, the superintendent for Georgetown Exempted Village Schools, told WKRC TV that the training is “not just practice with the gun itself, but mental preparation providing several scenarios that they put you in to really get your mind right.”
The Tactical Defense Institute did the hands-on portion of the training for the Georgetown district, which now has armed staff in both the elementary and high school buildings.
Brian Rau, Superintendent of the Manchester Local School District, says it’s necessary to prepare for “when” a shooting happens, not “if”.
“I know that these shootings cannot be eliminated, which is why it is extremely important to prepare the best you can to minimize the casualties should one occur in your district.”
One of Rau’s first objectives after being hired by the district was to update the school’s current safety procedures in an effort to better protect the students and staff.
“Everything I proposed was not decided in a reactionary manner to any school shooting, especially the one this past week in Florida,” he said. “I know many districts are ramping up efforts with respect to school safety, which in some cases is a ‘knee-jerk’ reaction to the recent school shooting tragedy, however, I consider myself proactive in school safety and try to constantly stay one foot ahead of the assailants, which I must admit is not an easy task.”
Since August, Rau and the MLSD board have made several changes in their safety protocols including: Implementing the ALICE (Alert, Locate/Lockdown, Inform, Counter, Evacuate) safety procedure; collaborating with Rabold; rewriting building and district Emergency Action Plans; conducting more real-world and relevant safety drills; establishing better collaboration with external agencies such as the Manchester Fire Department, the Adams County Sheriff’s Department, and the Brown County Highway Patrol; and re-keying all the schools’ external and interior doors, while decreasing the number of keys and key (scan) cards distributed to individuals.
Rau said the district also plans to number all the doors and windows in the school so that law enforcement can better access the building and “more efficiently locate areas of possible concern.
When it comes to arming his staff, Rau said, “I will reserve the right to address this potentially controversial topic until after I officially address our Board of Education.”