Eyes are turned to school safety in Ohio after recent tragedies, including school shootings in Chardon and Connecticut.
Today, two state officials will discuss school safety initiatives to be implemented, as well as steps that already have been taken to prevent future tragedies.
Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine and Acting Superintendent of Public Instruction Michael Sawyers will address members of the media today in Columbus with their recommendations on steps to help schools with safety plans.
McDonald High School students Celina Vidman, 15, left, and Taylor Fortune, 15, watch the balloons drift into the sky Tuesday after they were released in memory of the victims of the Connecticut elementary school shooting. By R. Michael Semple
"We put together a School Safety Task Force to further study the issue and come up with practical ideas to help schools. One of the ideas that came from the task force was creating a set of guidelines that can be used to help schools who may not know what information to submit," DeWine said.
The task force, which consists of educators, school associations, first responders and local law enforcement officials, released those guidelines Tuesday.
The guidelines serve as a template for schools to create or update their safety plans.
"I would encourage schools to take a look at these guidelines as they formulate and update their plans. The information they provide can be lifesaving," said Obetz police Chief Kenneth R. Hinkle, a member of the Attorney General's School Safety Task Force and president of the Ohio Chiefs of Police.
State law requires schools to file comprehensive school safety and floor plans for each building that address serious threats and the schools' responses to those events. According to guidelines, the threats include, but are not limited to natural disasters / severe weather; fire / explosion; active shooters; hostage situations; bomb threats; medical emergencies; significant accidents (including bus crashes, chemical spills, etc.); and acts of terrorism.
Once filed with the Attorney General's Office, the plans are available to law enforcement personnel in the event of an emergency.
"Having these school safety plans and building plans electronically available to first responders is a critical tool for us when we are called to respond to incidents at our schools," Hinkle said.
The safety plans must be updated once every three years, as well as whenever a major modification to the building requires any changes in the plan's procedures.
In addition to the safety plan guidelines, DeWine reminded educators Monday about free school safety and law enforcement training opportunities available through the Ohio Peace Officer Training Academy (OPOTA), which is part of the Attorney General's Office.
"The skills taught by our experienced faculty can literally be lifesaving," DeWine said. "Following the tragic events in Chardon last February, we have increased the availability of our school safety trainings."
OPOTA offers courses on profiling an active shooter and single officer response to active threats, as well as free training for firearms and mobile driving simulators.