GREEN The recent school shooting in Florida, the suicide in Jackson at the middle school, and numerous investigations into calls related to school violence in the area caused a great deal of concern for parents in Green. To deal with these concerns, a special meeting was held March 1 to take questions, suggestions and concerns related to school security.
More than 300 parents, teachers, and students braved a cold, snowy night to sit in the Green High auditorium for more than three hours to voice their concerns.
Green Director of Community and Communications Jullie McMahan acted as the moderator and she started the meeting by introducing the panel who would be discussing the various aspects of school security. These included Green Superintendent Jeff Miller; Board President Bob Campbell; Tim Del Vecchio, security consultant for Ohio Schools; Green Fire Chief Jeff Funai; Kristopher Gent, Green supervisor of tactical paramedics; Summit County Sheriff Steve Barry; Sheriff's Office Capt. Doug Smith, operations and community relations; and Lt. Mike Sanchez, commander of the Patrol Bureau.
More than half of the panel live in Green and have or had children in Green schools. Following their introduction, each panel member then gave a short talk on their area of expertise.
The discussion opened with questions submitted on index cards from the audience. McMahan read the question and then directed the question toward the appropriate official(s) for comments. The questions were confined to various aspects of school security and the audience was cautioned that the questions were not to be of a political nature.
The first question was directed at Miller and it asked if a Student Safety Board could be created to look at various social media posts to warn officials if some suspicious or threatening post appeared. Miller believes that is a good idea and should be looked into. One of the things mentioned by the panel was that parents should be aware of what their children are looking at or posting on social media.
Another question related to students expulsion and rights of students. By Ohio law, students can only be suspended for a maximum of 80 days, unless a weapon is involved, which then increases to a year. It was also emphasized by police officials that they have to observe the legal rights of potential suspects, despite what the public feels.
In the case of an actual shooting incident, the current plan is called Run, Hide and Fight. As explained, if there is an active shooter every effort should be made to have the children run away from the shooting site and find a safe place. It was emphasized that it might take a while to locate everyone but it will eventually occur. If flight is not possible then the students should hide wherever possible in the school. In the worst case and a shooter gets into a classroom, resisting is encouraged to distract the shooter.
Arming teachers was brought up and Barry said it was not a good idea, citing training statistics that show that under pressure trained police officers' efficiency decreases. Barry said teachers with minimal training would not be a good idea. Afterward, somebody commented that it might be a good idea to arm teachers with non-lethal weapons such as Tasers or chemical mace to give them some degree of defense. It was also pointed out that teachers do not have "sovereign immunity" like police officers in case they would accidentally hit an innocent bystander, according to Ohio law.
In terms of increasing security, the use of metal detectors was brought up. It was pointed out that that these run between $125,000-$250,000 per unit and would require two armed officers, one female and one male, just like at airport security locations. In addition, there is the time involved in processing the large number of students coming into the building, and that this would have to be done at all events such as sports, musicals and theater productions.
At the conclusion of this portion of the session, McMahan then opened the discussion to anyone who believed their submitted questions had not been addresses. Several dozen people made their way to the podiums.
One suggestion was to bring in bomb and gun sniffing dogs. Another was to use wands to check students for weapons. One parent asked about backpacks with ballistic protection to deflect bullets.
The need to have a central communications point for parents to get information was brought up by one parent. She said that the school was not doing enough to provide parents with timely information about ongoing situations that might arise. Another parent brought up the question of police training in recognizing how autistic or special needs students might react in a crisis situation, which might put them in danger if police perceived their actions as threatening. It was pointed out that police officers are given training in this area and that such students are normally grouped in certain parts of the building to facilitate easy recognition in a crisis situation.
Several parents cited how easy it is to get into the buildings, such as the high school were student IDs are often not checked, or students let other students in without supervision. At Green Intermediate, the doors to the cafeteria are left open. Another person pointed out that drills did not take place when students were in the halls or at lunch, but rather just when they were in classrooms, though it was pointed out that drills were held during different times of the day. One parent suggested a security fee each year to pay for things like metal detectors, saying she would be willing to spend an extra $100 a year for such a fee.
Student Carolyn Campbell, daughter of the board president, talked about mental health and the need to work with the subject in schools. This tied in with earlier talks about the subject and ways to identify children with problems. Denton Cohen, another child of a board member, talked about the teachers he had had over 13 years in the Green, and while he liked most there were a few he wasn't especially fond of. But, he stated, that he believed each and every one of his teachers would do whatever was necessary to protect their students in case an active shooter got into one of the schools.