In the wake of the Chardon High School shooting in February, Mike DeWine ramped up school safety efforts. The attorney general’s office, through the Ohio Police Officers Training Academy, included training in school situations. In addition, DeWine began checking to make sure school districts were in compliance with a 2007 law requiring them to file safety plans and floor plans.
This week, the attorney general announced an expansion of the training, wisely including teachers and school administrators, those most likely to be first on the scene during a shooting incident. He will work with the state Department of Education, the Ohio School Boards Association and others in a collaborative response to the slaughter in Newtown, Conn., last week.
No doubt teachers and administrators are the real “first responders,” as DeWine noted, law enforcement likely arriving on the scene after the carnage has started. So, he said, a safety task force will consider all possibilities, including whether to allow a carefully selected and trained educator to have access to locked weapons at school, or perhaps hiring an ex-police officer to be on duty.
Ultimately, DeWine stressed, such a decision should be made by local school boards, assessing the needs of their own district. On Monday, the first day of school after the Sandy Hook Elementary School tragedy in Connecticut, area school districts did beef up security, many by adding a police presence in or around school buildings.
Whether to go beyond that is a question that deserves the most careful consideration. It is one thing to train teachers and administrators how to respond when a shooter is present, protecting and evacuating children in a time of danger.
It is quite another to plan and train for an armed confrontation, one on one, especially in a room or hallway where children could be present, any stray shot possibly deadly to innocents.
In the end, keeping schools gun-free, and relying on police to provide armed security, may be the best course going forward. Despite public perceptions, driven by much media coverage, experts in mass shootings say these incidents are not becoming more common. In other words, keeping a loaded weapon, even under lock and key, in a school may be far out of proportion to the threat.