By Lisa Reicosky and Lori Monsewicz
The fact that school shootings are rare may offer some peace of mind to parents who send their children off on the bus each morning.
But when they happen, especially as close to home as Chardon, site of the most recent deadly school shooting, parents and school administrators are harshly snapped back to the reality that it could, indeed, happen here.
Complacency is not an issue with local districts.
In fact, all Ohio districts are required to conduct a school safety drill early in the school year that focuses on the threat of violence or an act of terrorism.
“We do lockdown drills, and we have a great relationship with our safety forces,” said Lake Local Schools Superintendent Jeff Wendorf, who, as with many Stark County administrators, reached out to his district’s parents Monday night to offer reassurance.
“The best defense we have is that kids, staff and parents communicate. We need to know right away if a threat is made,” he said.
Wendorf said when we look back at the tragedy at Columbine High School in 1999 and those that followed, we often hear people in those communities say, “This just doesn’t happen here.”
Lake Township and Chardon, he said, are similar in size, socioeconomic status and other demographics, and this serves as a reminder we need to take precautions and be aware of students who are troubled.
“These (actions) come from kids who are hurting. You have to pay attention,” he stressed.
In Canton City Schools, all of the buildings that were built under the Ohio School Facilities Commission (OSFC) construction program in recent years have rooms that can be locked from the inside.
Interim Superintendent Chris Smith said the safety drills they run are designed to get students to these secure rooms.
All of the districts’ schools have comprehensive safety assessments and a process in place to make sure all teachers and students are familiar with what they should do in case of an emergency.
“The thing we are reminded of is to constantly be on alert,” Smith said of the Chardon incident. “Be cognizant to people who don’t belong in the building.”
Both superintendents said metal detectors are not being considered for their schools.
The Stark County Sheriff’s Department oversees school-resource officers in Plain, Marlington and Canton Local school systems.
Chief Deputy Rick Perez said the deputies participate in lock-down drills with those schools, as well as the Tuslaw School District, which is in the sheriff’s jurisdiction.