Ohio school officials learn new ways to protect students

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Ohio school officials are looking for more ways to keep their students and teachers safe while on campus. Many of them met at the Ohio State University for a day-long seminar about ways to prevent school violence.

There have been four school shootings across the nation this year – the most recent being at a Cleveland high school. Until earlier this month, Ohio had never had a shooting inside a public school.

One of the seminar’s presenters was Michael Dorn. Dorn is executive director of Safe Havens International. Dorn said he put together a campus assault program after the 1998 Jonesboro, Arkansas shooting that killed four students and a teacher. He said, unfortunately, school safety competes with other issues like improving test scores.

“If you want to raise test scores, you’ll focus pervasively on safety. If you want to reduce employee turnover and stop the exodus of teachers that we’re experiencing. Fifty percent of school teachers leave the field in the first five years of in the United States often citing safety, order and discipline as leading reasons they leave,” Dorn said.

But Dorn said schools are not entirely unsafe. He said school shootings are rare and multi-victim shootings are even rarer.

Bill Wilcox is the safety coordinator for the Ohio School Board Association. Wilcox said Ohio’s schools are safe. But he admitted convincing parents, students, even teachers is tough.

“I suppose one way we could do it is to compare the safety of our schools with the safety of our society,” Wilcox said.

But Wilcox acknowledged some societal problems like drugs and illegal weapons do get into schools.

Paul Payne is a school resource officer in Cincinnati. And he said the best way to fight drugs and school shootings is communicating with the students. He said in the most recent school shootings at least one other person knew about them in advance.

“How do you do that though? Some kids are scared they’re going to be deemed a rat. Some of them don’t know how seriously to take the threats. Some of themselves are scared. How do you as an adult communicate and get down to that level? You know, it’s very intimidating to be in a school to be honest with you. And I think to crack that brotherhood, you know, like in law enforcement or with teachers; the students have their own brotherhood. And I think once again, I’m going back to relationships if you find one person in there that you can say that trusts you, you know, I will do something for a student and build that trust upon, and I then I expect that in return when something like that happens,.” Payne said.

The conference was sponsored by Liberty Mutual Insurance of Ohio and Indiana.

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