By AMANDA TONOLI
In the aftermath of school killings in Parkland, Fla., local school leaders and law enforcement are on alert for other potential school shooters.
Youngstown City Schools CEO Krish Mohip asked his CEO Citizens Coalition on Tuesday to review and revise a visitor policy in lieu of the recent events.
The current Student Visitor policy vaguely states, in eight paragraphs, that visitors must follow certain “controls” the superintendent sets to not be “detrimental to the good order of the school.”
No specific behaviors are stated in the policy, however.
Since the beginning of the 2017-18 school year, Youngstown schools have been using the Raptor security system, which scans the identification cards of all visitors before they can move throughout a school building and runs their information through a sex-offender database.
Other local schools districts, including Austintown and Boardman, also use the Raptor system.
“When I first came here it was kind of an open-door policy,” Mohip said. “There was no clear entrance door, and there was only one school resource officer who did rounds at all of the elementary schools. Unfortunately, crises don’t check our schedule for coverage, so now we take proper precautions and lock all doors except one [at each school], and at the door the first person someone meets is an SRO.
“We cannot just allow anyone into a building at any time frame, and we want to make sure we have a policy that says that and shows we are open to community, parents and other visitors and we have nothing to hide, but coming in is not going to be a time to interrupt instruction,” Mohip said.
Some suggestions for the policy included listing specific steps for entering a school building and simplifying language.
Gloria Darty, Youngstown educational assistant, suggested the policy have a Spanish translation, as well.
The Rev. Dr. Robin Woodberry, associate pastor of New Bethel Baptist Church on the city’s South Side, echoed Darty’s sentiment and further suggested adding a video.
“Some people don’t want to read or can’t read, so maybe they can watch a video,” Dr. Woodberry said.
Mohip said his leadership team would review the coalition’s suggestions and work on getting a policy together to present to it to them.
Youngstown isn’t the only district talking about security, however.
IN CANFIELD, AUSTINTOWN
Alex Geordan, Canfield schools superintendent, released a letter Monday about safety and security concerns in the community.
The letter lists a number of security measures the district, including the installation of video cameras, panic buttons, a buzzer system and entry key fob, and training in various safety procedures.
“I realize that we cannot prevent tragic things from happening in our community or in our schools,” Geordan said in his letter. “However, we are continuously working to educate children on how to stay safe, preparing our staff to respond appropriately and using our resources effectively.”
The letter closed with a plea for the community’s help.
“Please do not prop doors open when bringing items into the buildings,” it states. “Please do not open any doors for anyone at any time. All people entering our buildings must be individually buzzed in after identifying the reason for the visit at a main entrance. Please talk to children about the importance of being mindful of their surroundings as well as speaking to a staff member if they are alerted of any possible problem.”
In Austintown, schools Superintendent Vince Colaluca said the district has safety commission meetings that routinely review safety procedures.
The commission is made up of administrators, a board of education member and an Austintown police officer.
“We feel very comfortable with the expertise in our Austintown Police Department, and we continue to address community concerns as they arise,” Colaluca said. “For us, it’s great that we have such a good relationship with the township and police department.”
But that safety comes at a cost.
Austintown schools have about a $300,000 per year security budget.
“Our board [of education] made a change after Sandy Hook [Elementary School shooting] to increase the security budget an additional $220,000 per year,” Colaluca said. The increase was made possible with the revenue generated by open enrollment, he added.