Valley school districts are reacting to the national call for safer schools with enhanced security measures, expanded investigations and safety training in the aftermath of the deadly Feb. 14 Florida school shootings. Here is a roundup of activity:
Dozens of people attended a school board meeting Monday that featured a presentation on school safety and a lengthy public comment session on the topic.
In response to a concern raised by numerous people, Superintendent David Janofa promised to go to each school today to talk to staff about how they let people into school buildings. Several people said school offices sometimes buzz people into the buildings with little to no scrutiny, which Janofa called “unacceptable” and “shocking.”
“There’s absolutely no way that should happen,” he said.
Janofa also addressed what he said were rumors in the community about his stance on ALICE (Alert, Lockdown, Inform, Counter, Evacuate), an active-shooter training program. He said he is not opposed to ALICE, and parts of the program are incorporated into the district’s safety plans. He said he is opposed to an aspect of the training that instructs kids to confront shooters.
“I am not – and the board can choose to go in a different direction with their leadership, I’m OK with that, too – I’m not telling a young person” to attack a shooter, he said.
Janofa said he does support ALICE’s emphasis on fleeing when possible. “Absolutely,” he said. “Get out. Flee.”
Numerous people said the district should focus more on prevention efforts. One offered to help the district raise money for metal detectors, and more than one said they believe the community would support a levy to enhance school security.
The crowd also heard from school resource officer Steve Kent of the township police department, who is stationed in the schools. Kent assured parents he is looking out for their children. Kent said he and teachers talk to students every day, but kids have to be willing to talk to adults.
“They have to talk to us. Or talk to you. That’s the only way this is going to stop,” he said.
Educators, police and parents talked Monday afternoon about safety measures in place now and ones they might like to implement. Among the ideas are changes to the entrances at the schools, recruiting retired military veterans to serve as protectors and arming custodians.
James Vivo, a former Youngstown schools assistant principal who is now Lordstown High principal, said he believes security measures used in Youngstown might be appropiate for Lordstown. Among them were use of metal detectors and clear bags instead of backpacks.
Lordstown Superintendent Terry Armstrong said the school district started checking bags shortly after the Parkland shooting. But when a parent suggested that school lockers might also need to be searched, Armstrong said that might be reasonable.
“We check bags of every child who enters the building every day,” Armstrong told about 30 people in the former high school library. “We are going to continue doing that.”
The school district has 125 BOLO sticks, which are metal pins that can be deployed into a metal bracket in the floor to block a shooter from entering a classroom or office.
Armstrong said it costs $3,000 to $30,000 to add a metal detector to a school entrance. “I think they are worth it, but it’s a matter of funds,” he said.
Vivo said his focus right now is on watching the entrances to the high school, but he can’t be there all the time, like when he has a meeting to attend.
He welcomed the idea of a member of the audience who said he’s retired military and would volunteer two days per month to monitor entrances.
Police Chief Robin Lees said the FBI is helping officers in the Family Services Investigation Unit investigate an online threat over the weekend for a dance at Cardinal Mooney High School.
Lees said the investigation is open, and he met with the school’s principal Monday afternoon. Extra security has been added at the school and officers from the Community Police Unit will also be deployed around the school to keep an eye on it, including at dismissal times, Lees said.
Youngstown City Schools principals are talking to students about safety drills and safety issues, said district spokeswoman Denise Dick.
Austintown schools spokeswoman Brittany Bueno said the schools will host another ALICE training March 26.
Police sent a letter to parents in the Austintown school district explaining why the intermediate and high school were placed on “soft” lockdown Friday. Patrolman Shawn Hevener was hospitalized after he was struck by a police cruiser while responding to the schools, but was released later that day.
Amy Radinovic, Boardman schools spokeswoman, said Boardman’s student leaders, faculty and administration are working “on a plan for something meaningful as part of the national movement of students across the country.”
Liberty is starting a districtwide collaboration called the CORE Safety team, and the first meeting should take place soon, said Superintendent Joseph Nohra. The team will consist of police, students, administrators and parents, and they will discuss current and future school security.
Police investigated a seventh-grade student of the W.S. Guy Middle School on Sunday after a parent reported an Instagram post of a Glock .45 caliber handgun. In the caption was an emoji of a gun and another emoji of a person running away, according to police.
The student told police he found the picture on the internet and didn’t intend to threaten or intimidate anyone, but the case was turned over to the Trumbull County juvenile prosecutor.
Griffin Hardy, 15, pleaded not guilty in Mahoning County Juvenile Court to a misdemeanor charge of making false alarms, accused of making a bomb threat toward Sebring McKinley High School. He was released with a GPS bracelet.
Schools Superintendent Toni Viscounte said she talked to village police about possibly having officers use metal-detector wands on students while entering the schools on different days of the week. The district is looking into placing metal detectors at entrances as well, she said.
Students in all grade levels are learning to use door stoppers for an active shooter situation. The schools are planning active shooter training for staff this fall, and might not allow students to carry bookbags next school year.
The school district will have a second school resource officer. One will be at the elementary building each day until the end of the year, while the other officer concentrates on the intermediate and high school.
State senators Joe Schiavoni of Boardman, D-33rd, and Sandra Williams of Cleveland, D-21st, said they will introduce legislation shortly to remove firearms from people who are an imminent danger to themselves or others. The bill would establish an Extreme Risk Protection Order that would allow family members or law enforcement to ask a civil court to temporarily remove firearms from a person who is acting in an unstable or threatening manner toward themselves or others. The protection order could last up to one year.