Changing safety climates

Staff report


Recent lockdowns in Mahoning Valley schools led to tightened security, increased investigations, re-education and more.

Police and school security Wednesday investigated social media posts directed at Chaney High School and the Choffin Career and Technical Center.

Police Chief Robin Lees said Chaney was on a “soft lockdown” briefly Wednesday morning. He said a person from Chaney was taken to the department’s Family Investigative Services Unit for questioning.

School spokeswoman Denise Dick said threats of violence were determined to be unfounded, but extra security was available at both schools.

William Morvay, in charge of security for the schools, said the Chaney student who was questioned was released after it was determined his post was not threatening, and officers are continuing to question the student who made a social media post about Choffin.

Morvay said in the case involving Chaney, school and security officials became aware of the post before school started, so officers went to the student’s home and interviewed him at the city police department.

Morvay said after the interview it was determined it was not a threat, and he was not taken into custody.

At Choffin, a student who does not attend a school in the district but does attend Choffin was questioned after he or she made a potentially threatening social media post.

Investigators are still following up on that post, but it was determined “there was no immediate threat” at the school and the student has not been taken into custody.

Morvay said officials are extra cautious about social media posts because of the environment across the country after the Feb. 14 shootings at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., that killed 17 people.

“We take everything seriously now because of the climate we are forced to work in,” Morvay said.

A different kind of climate is happening in Austintown in light of two lockdowns at Fitch High School and Austintown Intermediate on Feb. 23.

Precision Shooting, an Austintown Township business, has come forward, offering teachers free concealed-carry license classes with a letter of consent from the Austintown Board of Education.

National debates on issues such as arming teachers, more thorough background checks and raising the age a person is able to purchase an assault weapon have come in the wake of the Feb. 14 shooting.

Austintown Superintendent Vince Colaluca said teachers are able to take concealed-carry classes, but it is still illegal to bring a firearm onto school grounds. An exception to the rule is armed police officers.

Concealed-carry license holders must leave weapons in their vehicles, unless given written consent from the board of education, according to Ohio Senate Bill 199, passed in March 2017.

“You go into education because you want to help kids become better citizens,” Colaluca said. “I’m sure there are people out there that have the ability to do that. As long as we’re financially capable to provide the protection, we’ll continue to do so.”

Board members David Ritchie and Harold Porter said they have heard little from teachers on the issue. Porter serves on the schools’ safety committee, and said the security in place is exceptional and a necessary expenditure.

“The police themselves aren’t comfortable with [arming teachers],” he said. “With us having an officer at every building right now I can’t really see the advantage of it. I think it could cause more harm than good.”

However, Jeff Yocum, owner of Precision Shooting, has said he’s heard from teachers interested in concealed-carry classes.

“I have kids in the school system,” Yocum said. “Whatever we could do to offer a hand to help, we will.”

Other local schools, including Canfield, Boardman and South Range, are re-educating staff about safety procedures.

Jackson-Milton, Liberty and Columbiana schools are in the process of setting dates for further discussion and safety-procedure training.

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