26 Apr 2012

Leaders are Seeking Safety Policies for Wood County Schools

Author: Teddie Livingston | Filed under: Enterprise Story, Spring 2012

Eastwood High School students leaving school. Photo by Teddie Livingston

By Teddie Livingston

With recent school shooting at Chardon and Armin Jahr Elementary School, Wood County school officials and law enforcements are partnering up to seek new safety policies to ensure that school shooting does not happen in Wood County. Wood County has not experienced a school shooting and plans to keep it that way.

Schools locally and nationally have safety policies and drills for the safety of the students in the schools. At Eastwood, school officials are seeking new safety policies and procedures to prevent school shootings. On March 1st, Eastwood High School Principal Jeff Hill attended training at the Wood County Educational Service Center in Bowling Green, which was organized by FEMA in cooperation with Homeland Security. Hill gained knowledge on unusual behaviors from students, actions to take when confronted, prevention methods and ways to prepare for an active shooter incident. “I try to keep my eyes and ears open for signs,” Hill said.

At Eastwood High School, one weapon was confiscated from the high school about three years ago, according to Hill. The principal received information from a student about a weapon in the school through a text message. At a bus stop, the assistant principal found a knife and brass knuckles in the book bag of a student. The boy was expelled for carrying a weapon in a school zone. The Gun-Free Schools Act (GFSA) requires each state or outlying areas to expel and report any students who are found bringing a firearm to school. The school went into lockdown to check lockers in case of other possible weapons such as a firearm.

Maria Melanathy, a senior at Eastwood High School has attended two high schools in Florida and has experienced two school threats before attending Eastwood. The school went into lockdown; windows were locked and covered and students hid under the desk. “Threats are overlooked a lot but should be worried about,” she said.

At Eastwood High School Melanathy does not feel any danger. “The school is very small and extremely sheltered,” she said, “My friends from Florida always laugh at me for going to such a small, sheltered, deserted school but I like it.”

During 2006-2007 school year, 2,695 students were reported for expulsion within 50 states, D.C., Puerto Rico, and American Samoa, according to Report on the Implementation of the Gun-Free Schools Act in the States and Outlying Areas. Arkansas, California, Georgia, Louisiana, Massachusetts, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Texas, and Virginia had 100 or more expulsions in each state. The expulsions were for firearms; more than half were reported at the high school level with 59 percent, the elementary school level had 35 percent and junior high level had 27 percent. 53 percent involved handguns, 10 percent involved rifles or shotguns and the remaining 37 percent involved other types of firearm such as bombs, grenades and starter pistols. In Ohio, 162 students were expelled for bringing a firearm in school. At elementary school level, 11 incidents have occurred, 60 at junior high and 91 at high school level; 137 were handguns, according to the report.

“Students tell us if anything occurs on Facebook or text messages,” Hill said. “We listen to tips, but 98 percent of the cases have been proven to be wrong.” If a school official receives information from a source that a possible firearm may be in the school, the student will be brought into the principal’s office. The principal will talk to the parents and then find ways to act proactively, according to Hill.

Next year, Wood County plans to become a part of a sheriff supported safety policy called “Alice,” according to Hill. Alice which stands for Alert Lockdown Inform Counter Evacuate advocates training methods for staff and students to challenge active shooters. “Do what you have to do to survive,” he said. The new training program will allow students and staff members the opportunity to run and get away, flight or fight. Instead of staying in the same area as the shooters, “challenge the shooters,” he said.

This theory trains children to try to “distract” and “confuse” the shooters by throwing items and attacking. There are seven certified Alice instructors in the Bowling Green Police Department, according to Lieutenant Brad Biller with Bowling Green Police Division. City police and the sheriff’s office are working to permanently establish this safety protocol.

Biller encourages working with Alice and other school safety security planning. “The best defense is a good offensive.” He said that students should attack and throw stuff rather than hide and hangout because lockdowns can increase the shooter target statistics.

Students usually get a firearm from someone they know but do not know how to use it or think about the consequence, according to Biller. He believes most school shootings occur to seek revenge from bullying.

“The elementary and middle school staff does a good job with approaching bullying situations,” said Donna Schuessler, Eastwood High School guidance counselor. On the first day of school only freshmen come into the building to see the new school without any pressure from upper classmates. During the fall and spring, 12 freshman and 12 sophomores are chosen to be a part of a leadership program called the Carpe Diem Retreat. The retreat teaches students how to become leaders and create a positive atmosphere to reduce bullying and prevent violence in schools, she said.

To reduce violent incidents occurring, Schuessler says she has “open door policy,” which welcomes students into her office. “At Eastwood there is good communication with staff and students,” she said. She believes proactive programs will reduce the chances of students bringing a firearm into a school zone.

There is no profile for school shooters, according to Jo Ann Webb, U.S Department of Education. “Shooters come in all sizes and shapes, both sexes, all nationalities,” she said in an email. There is no accurate profile of what a shooter looks like, she said. They come from every region of the country and get good grades and poor ones.

“Instead, you need to explore behaviors,” she said. Is this person on a pathway to violent behaviors? Does the shooter have intentions to engage in violent behaviors and does the shooter have a drawn up plan? These are the questions that need to ask, Webb said.

A student goes through four stages when a school shooting occurs, Hill said. First is the dreaming stage, which is when the student visualizes the act occurring. The preparation stage involves gathering the items needed to commit the act. The rehearsal stage is to act it out. Lastly, the act committed at the implementation stage.

Melanathy believes it will not be an easy task for Alice to become a safety policy in schools. “Kids won’t take it serious,” she said, “I don’t think kids will know how to apply it.” If a school shooting was to occur she would listen to the teachers, hide and be as quiet as possible, she said.

Once a year at Eastwood, the school practices a lock-down and a modified lock-down. A lock-down is when the school is completely locked-down for an intruder or a school shooting. During a modified lock-down, teachers must lock their doors and continue teaching as police searches through lockers for drugs or weapons.

If Eastwood is seeking new safety policies hopefully other surrounding schools will do the same. “I’m happy I can come to Eastwood and feel safe,” Melanathy said.

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One thought on “Leaders are Seeking Safety Policies for Wood County Schools

  1. Carrie Brittson Says:

    Great story. The structure is well done and you have facts and stats to back up your story.