COLUMBUS, Ohio — Ohio Governor Mike DeWine announced a new initiative Wednesday aimed at preventing violence in Ohio’s schools.
DeWine signed an executive order at the Ohio Statehouse, creating the Ohio School Safety Center, a new division within Ohio Homeland Security. The center, DeWine said, is intended to be a resource for local communities and schools to help keep students and staff protected.
“It is often school personnel who first recognize signs of trouble,” DeWine said. “We also know that, too many times, educators and innocent classmates have become victims. Unfortunately, Ohio has experienced tragedy and instances of violence in schools, including the shooting at Chardon High School in 2012, Madison Junior-Senior High School in Butler County in 2016, West Liberty-Salem High School in 2017.”
DeWine said the newly-formed Ohio School Safety Center (OSSC) would “assist local schools and law enforcement in attempting to prevent, prepare for and respond to threats and acts of violence, including self-harm, and they will do this through a holistic, solution-based approach.”
The center would begin its work Thursday with seven employees, DeWine said, and will grow in the future. He described it as a “work in progress.”
Among the duties of the center would be reviewing school safety plans and emergency management plans, consolidating state resources for school safety, establishing a threat assessment model policy and training, and manning a tip line that accepts anonymous calls and texts about school safety and threats of violence (844-SAFEROHIO). Employees would also monitor social media.
“Intelligence analysts at the Ohio School Safety Center will use enhanced technology to scan social media and websites, looking for threats made towards our schools,” DeWine said. “When a threat is identified, analysts will be able to conduct a threat analysis and then share that information quickly with local law enforcement and local school officials.”
The center would also convene experts in safety and mental health at least once a year to share best practices and resources, as well as a working group of experts that would meet at least quarterly and would put out a report on school safety in Ohio at least once a year.
“We have a shared vision for safer schools, and I believe the Ohio School Safety Center will be a key tool, a key tool in preventing violence in our schools,” DeWine said.