The Star Beacon; Ashtabula, Ohio

June 9, 2013

Some school districts failed to submit safety plans

By JACKIE BORCHARDT and MARGO KISSELL
Dayton Daily News

— The Ohio Attorney General’s Office on Friday said 58 Ohio schools have not submitted school safety plans and 189 others are not in compliance with a state law requiring they update their plans every three years.

Attorney General Mike DeWine formed a task force to evaluate safety in schools after the fatal school shootings in December 2012 in Connecticut and one several years ago in Chardon, Ohio.

Beavercreek City Schools Board of Education President Al Nels disputed the state’s list showing seven of the district’s eight schools - the high school, both middle schools and four elementary schools - are two months overdue in filing their updated plans. A spreadsheet shows they were last updated in April 2010. Only Fairbrook Elementary is not listed.

DeWine on Friday released recommendations of his School Safety Task Force, including schools forming local partnerships with emergency first responders to manage school emergencies and a template safety plan that includes information and best practices Ohio schools can use to build safety plans.

The new guide will give schools a road map to follow when drafting school safety documents required by the state.

“What we know if we know anything is that in regard to school safety, it has to be a holistic approach and we have to involve many, many groups,” DeWine said at a news conference.

The new state emergency planning handbook includes guidelines and examples of comprehensive school safety and floor plans.

A 2007 state law requires schools to file both plans with the attorney general’s office. DeWine said after the Chardon shooting, half of Ohio’s schools were out of compliance and 725 schools had never filed plans.

DeWine issued guidelines in December 2012 to help schools complete the plans, which are only made available to law enforcement. He said then that a significant number of the nearly 4,900 plans didn’t pass muster and his office would work with schools to improve their plans.

DeWine said it wasn’t the fault of the schools because they didn’t know best practices.

The task force recommends schools follow a template floor plan that clearly labels entrances, cameras, utility shutoffs and other details that would assist first responders during emergency situations. DeWine said such information was lacking or inconsistent in plans that have been submitted.

In addition to collecting resources for schools, the task force made several recommendations for changes in state and federal law. Recommendations include funding school resource officers and building security upgrades, reviewing privacy and mental health laws and reviewing regulations on allowing guns in schools.

The model plan is designed as a handbook for school officials making safety plans in conjunction with a DVD and in-person training offered by the Ohio Peace Officer Training Academy.

While the attorney general’s office reported that all Ohio schools now have building plans on file, some submissions are not considered compliant with school safety plans because they lack either a floor plan or an emergency operations plan.