By Denise Dick
One teacher who attended train-ing that focused on preparing educators for an active-shooter scenario says the information was worth-while and he recommends it for others.
Larry Ellis, a sixth- and seventh- grade teacher at the University Project Learning Center, the city school district’s alternative school, attended a safety training session for educators last month in Columbus sponsored by the Ohio Attorney General’s Office and the Ohio Department of Education.
The sessions through the Ohio Peace Officer Training Academy were arranged after the shooting deaths last year of 20 children and six adults at an elementary school in Newtown, Conn.
“I thought it was very useful,” he said. “I’d like to see it expanded and offered to administrators and more teaching staff.”
The training, which also is for law-enforcement officers, emphasizes three points, according to Attorney General Mike DeWine’s office:
Identifying potential threats and referring them to other counseling services or to law enforcement.
The protocol recommended for responding law enforcement.
Recommended protocol for educators and administrators if they encounter an active threat in their school.
Boardman school officials also attended the training last December.
Struthers Superintendent Joe Nohra said his district’s safety, security and crisis leadership team, composed of district administrators, the juvenile diversion coordinator, school resource officer and city police chief, will attend the training later this month in Cuyahoga County.
Nohra also plans to apply to the Ohio Department of Education and request from the city’s school board to have a waiver day in mid-May, to have trainers come into the district to instruct other school personnel and to practice the district’s safety plan.
Before the training, the only instruction Ellis, who also is the president of the Youngstown Education Association, the teachers union, had received about responding to a threat was going into a lockdown.
“There are times that lockdown may not be the best option,” he said.
In the shootings reviewed by instructors during the training, people died because they stayed together in one place.
“It may have cost more lives and more injuries than an alternative,” Ellis said.
Instructors talked about ways to distract a shooter by throwing a stapler, a tape dispenser or anything that a teacher might have on his or her desk, he said.
Schools regularly practice fire drills, but it’s been years since someone died in a school fire, Ellis said. School shootings, on the other hand, are occurring more frequently.
“It’s like we got into one aspect and left it stagnate, but it’s happening more frequently,” Ellis said. “We can’t say it’s not going to happen here because we could be the next one tomorrow.”