The Beacon Journal this fall sent questions to public and private schools in the Akron-Canton area to gain an understanding of security. In order to protect children who are in buildings or districts where security levels may be insufficient, the newspaper agreed to be nondescript in its discussion of weaknesses.
Here are the results.
• 47 school districts with 201 buildings responded.
• Twelve districts employ 29 police officers, often known as School Resource Officers. In some cases, the SROs spend their entire work day at one school. Others serve multiple schools and some are SROs in addition to performing other duties. That leaves 35 districts reporting no SRO.
• Two of the 47 responding districts reported having no video cameras.
• 29 of the 47 districts use ALICE or a similar method to instruct teachers and/or children on how to take assertive action when facing immediate dangers. Some districts said that only teachers received the training or that they were in the process of adopting it. Other districts advocate what some call a passive or lockdown response, which includes locking doors and hiding.
• All 47 districts said they are complying with Ohio law regarding the formation of a security plan, complete with school layouts. They send them to the Ohio Attorney General’s Office. Their responses, however, show that some consider just sending them to Columbus sufficient while others say their efforts include considerably more collaboration with police. The districts were asked: “If police respond to an incident at one of your schools, are they able to access school floor plans from their vehicles?” Most schools said their collaboration with police went far beyond that, including frequent visits by officers and even Web access of the floor plans from inside the cars. One small school, however, answered, “These are questions for the … police department. All of our building plans are up to date and filed with the State of Ohio.”
• Responses varied when superintendents were asked whether their schools have secure vestibules that keep visitors from having direct access to classrooms. Five districts simply answered that visitors are required to use a door buzzer without elaborating on whether entry then provides direct access to classrooms. One school simply said, “We have secured areas monitored by staff in each individual entrance.”
• Some of the districts declined to participate, saying they did not want to reveal security details. One superintendent said, “We believe it would be prudent to answer some [questions] and not so for others. Since we do not feel at liberty to answer all of them, we have chosen not to participate.”
• Only three of 26 area public schools did not respond. Five of 12 charter schools did not respond. Twenty-eight of 55 private schools did not respond. Follow-up telephone calls last week to charter and private schools revealed that many superintendents and principals in the Department of Education directory had left their positions in the two-month period of the survey.