Barhite: TPS has safety plan in case of school violenceWritten by Brandi Barhite | Community Ombudsman | email@example.com
School violence is nothing new, but when it happens in our state like it did in Chardon on Feb. 27, more people ask, “How prepared is our local school district?”
Toledo Public Schools has several safety mechanisms in place to prevent violence or at least curb the impact if it does occur.
Jim Gault, chief academic officer, said the buildings within the district are encouraged to practice a lockdown drill each month. Mobile metal detectors are available for use whenever there might be a concern about potential violence. Those same detectors are occasionally used at athletic events, depending on the anticipated crowd or if a concern about safety is expressed.
“It is a judgment call,” Gault said.
Another safety measure is stationing a school resource officer from Toledo Police Department at each high school.
Gault said the Ohio Attorney General’s office has blueprints of the all the schools within the district, along with the safety plans. The Toledo Police Department also has blueprints in case of an emergency. TPS has 51 buildings, he said.
The district has a tiered approach to safety.
During a Level 1, someone is stationed by the door and no one goes in or out of the building without supervision. This usually occurs when there is a threat in the community.
A Level 2 means that a community threat is within close proximity of the school. The classroom doors are locked, but teaching continues.
During a Level 3, the danger is at the school and students are moved to the safest spot in the room, usually away from the locked door. Teachers stop teaching and everyone is told to be quiet.
Gault said a Level 3 occurred a few years ago during a pellet gun incident at Riverside Elementary School. At the time, it was not known that it was a pellet gun.
“Safety is our No.1 priority in the district,” Gault said. “We have anti-bullying and anti-violence training. We encourage students who are feeling threatened or upset to come to an adult.
“In light of Chardon, we want to encourage parents to talk to their kids about the highs and lows of the day and tell us about anything that is concerning. We are in this together.”
Gault started with TPS in 1998, one year before Columbine. The culture at the school regarding safety shifted after that. Chardon’s shootings reinforce the need for vigilance.
“Chardon shows this type of incident can happen anywhere,” he said.
Students might look like adults, but they need nurturing and guidance, Gault said. School officials and parents need to be worried about more than just spoken words. Social media like Facebook and Twitter can reveal troubled youth, he said.
Gault wants everyone to know that nothing is too insignificant to report.
“We want to investigate issues to make sure they are nothing,” he said.