CrimeTracker 10 Analyzes School Safety 1 year After Chardon HS Shooting

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Last year’s tragedy at Chardon High School was a painful reminder of how vulnerable places of learning can be.

Because of it, many districts were moved to take hard looks at their own security plans.

From Nelsonville to New Albany, nearly every district around central Ohio has seen conversations dominated by school safety.

“Every school district, every school board, people who work in schools are talking about this,” said Attorney General Mike DeWine.

But many districts have gone past talking and have taken action.

CrimeTracker 10 contacted multiple schools to see, the year after the Chardon tragedy, what was being done to keep students safe.

In the Nelsonville-York school district in Athens County, district officials currently are in talks with city council to get an armed officer hired to be in the district hallways.

In Newark, a safety committee met for the first time this week to discuss how to bring more armed officers into the schools and to possibly arm teachers.

Many districts, such as Upper Arlington, now require visual identification before being allowed inside.

With the average age of Upper Arlington’s school buildings at 57 years, officials said it takes some redesign and patience to achieve modern-day safety.

“We’re built at a time when school shootings were unheard of in many, many ways,” said Upper Arlington Schools spokesman Dan Donovan.

School shootings are unheard of no longer. The threat of an unwanted visitor harming school children is real enough to bring about change.

“If there is a shooting in a school, what have we learned? How do you protect lives, how do you minimize the loss of life?” DeWine said.

One way is with the state’s highest legal authority taking action – by offering a course that already more than 600 teachers have taken.

They also have been given information about how to recognize the signs of troubled students and how to not ignore those signals.

Experts said the relationship between law enforcement and school personnel has to be healthy.

Westerville police have taken that a step further, with the help of technology.

New equipment allows police to monitor all of the cameras in the district’s schools from a laptop or smartphone.

“If we get a call on an incident in a school, we have access to those IP addresses,” said Westerville Police Chief Joe Morbitzer. “We can then go into the school that we’re talking about and start monitoring actions and behaviors.”

Along with safety plans submitted to the state detailing procedures in case of a threat, Westerville has joined scores of other schools that now number entrances to its buildings, as well as every other access point for easy identification.

Donovan said he believes the Upper Arlington district has become safer because of the changes made since the Chardon shooting.

“I believe we are safer, but we aren’t safest,” Donovan said. “I mean, there are things to be fixed yet.”

DeWine said he believes the state’s school safety plans are a “work in progress.”

“I don’t think we should pat ourselves on the back and become complacent,” DeWine said.

A spokesperson for the biggest district in the state, the Columbus City School District, said a 2008 levy allowed significant security upgrades.

Like other districts, it continues to review safety procedures on a regular basis, according to the spokesperson.

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