By Denise Dick
Area educators try to identify potential problem students and rely on school resources and technology to make schools safe but acknowledge that nothing will prevent a school shooting tragedy from ever happening.
State Sen. Joe Schiavoni of Canfield, D-33rd, Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine and Ron Iarussi, superintendent of the Mahoning County Educational Service Center, led a school-safety roundtable Monday with educators and law enforcement from Mahoning and Columbiana counties.
DeWine’s office is hosting training around the state for school personnel, regarding in-school shootings.
The training deals first with how to identify someone who might cause problems, and then what to do if a shooting does happen to minimize the loss of life. It’s not teaching educators how to shoot a gun, though.
DeWine asked school officials how prepared they feel to identify a young person who is a potential danger and how well-prepared they are if a shooter is in their school.
Not very, said Boardman Superintendent Frank Lazzeri.
The district practices mock drills in the middle and high schools and additional simulations are prepared for this spring, but that only goes so far.
Lazzeri said he doesn’t feel that the schools are prepared if something like the shootings that occurred in either Chardon or in Connecticut occurs here.
One Boardman teacher said she’s been instructed in training to take all of her students to the back of the classroom in a shooter scenario and wait for help to arrive.
Canfield Superintendent Alex Geordan said that district is looking into panic buttons for its schools that would alert law enforcement and school administrators in the event of a tragedy.
A student’s mental health is something that schools have to be aware of too, he said.
Other superintendents agreed.
Most districts are strapped for cash, though, and guidance counselors are deluged with other duties.
While there are many programs such as alternative schools in Mahoning County where a student who needs help or has problems can be sent, schools can’t force a parent to enroll their children into one of those programs, Lazzeri said.
James Hall, retired South Range superintendent who is a member of the Mahoning County school, board, said school resource officers likely have prevented many school tragedies.
“A school resource officer is not a luxury,” he said. “If you have to find the money to pay for it, you have to find it. A school resource officer is a blessing.”
Jerry Greene, Mahoning County sheriff, said all government agencies cope with fewer dollars.
“We need to focus on what we can do that doesn’t cost as much money,” he said. “It’s training, training, training.”
Chuck Colucci, Canfield police chief, said there needs to be a culture shift that improves communication between schools and law enforcement. If school personnel believe someone they deal with is a potential danger, they should notify police.
Schiavoni said he will take the information gathered back to Columbus to see if any funding may be available through grants or other sources.