CLEVELAND, Ohio — Incomprehensible violence at a Texas elementary school this week is renewing calls for school safety and prompting schools to reiterate their plans to keep students and staff out of harm’s way.
Several Northeast Ohio police departments posted their condolences and pledges to protect on Facebook. The Stow Police department shared photos of school resource officers (SROs) and explained the department has worked with the Stow-Munroe Falls School District to offer the service since the 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary shooting.
The Westlake Police Department shared a photo of its flag at half staff, along with details about SROs stationed at local schools and the department monitoring surveillance equipment and providing schools with direct radio links to police in case of emergency.
“The partnership and constant communication between the police department and the schools with the support of our community allows for the legitimate feeling of safety in the schools while still preparing for and doing all we can to prevent a tragedy at the hands of a criminal at any of our school buildings,” the post said.
Some Northeast Ohio schools are receiving new state funding to bolster safety and security. Last week, Governor Mike DeWine’s office announced $4.8 million in School Safety Grants awarded to nearly 100 schools statewide. Nineteen schools in Cuyahoga County, including North Olmsted, South Euclid-Lyndhurst, and Shaker Heights schools, will receive the funding.
In a note home to families Wednesday morning, Shaker Heights Schools said the grants will help make its “buildings safer until they can be more comprehensively upgraded to meet the modern safety and security standards.”
Ken Trump, the president of Cleveland-based consulting firm National School Safety and Security Services, said, “We need to take a comprehensive approach that includes the security hardware, but does not exclude funding and resources for teaching and training staff to be situationally aware.”
The former officer and school security director explained school shootings are a complicated problem that necessitates a complicated approach, beyond physical security measures and technology.
“Any type of security equipment and technology is only as good as the weakest human link behind it. It's an extra tool for humans to use,” he said. “It's the human factor where people fail, not the hardware that fails. So if we invest only or in a skewed way with grants and money on security equipment, we're putting a technological solution to a human behavior problem. And we're not going to get fully where we need to get in terms of best preparing our schools.”
In 2007, tragedy prompted local changes in the Cleveland Metropolitan School District (CMSD) after a 14-year-old suspected gunman shot and wounded two teachers and two fellow students at SuccessTech Academy. The freshman student then took his own life.
In the wake of the shooting, CMSD installed metal detectors and staffed security officers in every school. It also began implementing more comprehensive social-emotional learning practices and policies.
“No community is immune no matter how many metal detectors you put in, no matter how many security officers you have,” said Shari Obrenski, the president of the Cleveland Teachers Union. “It is the wrong person on the wrong day at the wrong time and it can happen anywhere. But I do think we try the best we can to make our environment as safe as possible.”
Many schools and security experts agree preventing and tackling school shootings will require a comprehensive approach, but is a topic that needs immediate attention.
“We need people to be more trained to be more situationally aware, to look around and be fully present in terms of what's going on around them, to be engaged and build relationships, actively supervise students, know who's a stranger is in the hallway and report or challenge them. Look at that strange car person that's on the outside in the parking lot. Those are the things that are going to make a difference,” Trump said.
Obrenski added, “It would just be wonderful if our elected officials would take it as seriously as we do.”
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