By Marc Kovac
Lawmakers should sign off on increased support for districts to hire additional guidance counselors and resource officers, upgrade security systems and provide better access to mental health service.
And schools should be required to perform one live drill a year to practice how to respond to non-fire emergencies and incidents.
Those were among the recommendations of a statewide task force formed by Attorney General Mike DeWine late last year to review school safety and security policies.
DeWine unveiled the recommendationsrecently at the Statehouse, along with a template for schools to use when developing state- required safety plans.
“Every once in a while we have a tragedy and the idea is to do what we can to prevent the tragedy and to do what we can in case a tragedy does ever unfold to minimize the loss of life,” DeWine said. “That’s what our goal is.”
Under state law, districts are required to file building blueprints and safety plans with the attorney general’s office, updating the information every few years or as new buildings are constructed. The information is not public record but is stored electronically and available to law enforcement as needed.
DeWine complained last summer that more than 150 schools across the state had failed to submit the plans to his office, and submitted plans were inconsistent in their format and content, making it difficult for law enforcement and emergency responders to use.
Today all schools across the state have filed information with this office to meet the requirement, though nearly 200 have not updated their documents in the past three years, as required, he said.
The template released Friday provides a basic outline for creating the plans, along with specific information about what should be included.
“Every school in the state now has that tool,” DeWine said. “Our purpose is to protect their kids ... We have seen these tragedies, worry about these tragedies, worry about our kids every day. The truth is that our schools are the safest place kids can be for seven to eight hours a day... We want to make them safer.”
Among its other recommendations, the task force urged increased access to certain mental health records by law enforcement and creation of a single state office to coordinate school and campus safety and security.