District Has Security Plans

ST. MARYS — In the wake of the mass shooting that killed more than two dozen people at a Connecticut elementary school Friday morning, one local school official says he will review the district’s security plan.

“We have monthly safety meetings in which we cover a lot of topics,” St. Marys Superintendent Shawn Brown told The Evening Leader Friday afternoon. “We absolutely will be discussing this issue. We will follow it and will try to learn from it. You try to learn from every incident that happens and try to do what you can to eliminate as many casualties as we can. It’s a learning experience and you wish you can plan for everything, but you just can’t.”

When the new school was built, a slew of new security features were included. A visitor to the school can enter the main doors, but must be buzzed in by someone in the office as the doors leading into the office and school are locked.

“We have policies in place for controlled access as well as emergency lockdowns — depending on the severity of the threat,” Brown said. “Dan Grothause went to a conference and listened to the superintendent and high school principal from Chardon to get an idea of these types of situations and what they did and suggestions for improvements.”

Among the improvements is ALICE training — which stands for Alert, Lockdown, Inform, Counter and Evacuate. Brown underwent the training while at Spencerville and noted he would like to bring it to St. Marys. The training helped prepare faculty and staff on how to respond in the event of an active shooter.

The addition of panic buttons in offices could be coming in the near future.

“I think our security features are working, but nothing is fool proof,” Brown said. “We don’t have panic buttons, but I was talking with Dan Grothause earlier this week and that’s something we plan on discussing. There could be the potential for panic buttons for the secretaries and principals.”

Local school officials wouldn’t have to turn far for ALICE training. St. Marys Police Sgt. Tim Eberle and Patrolman Randy Allemeier are certified ALICE trainers and have been traveling to schools teaching the program’s techniques.

“It teaches people how to deal with an active shooter,” St. Marys Police Chief Greg Foxhoven said. “We present it to schools because it just so happens that these acts are happening there.”

Law enforcement officials across the county routinely train for active shooter scenarios. Foxhoven said much of that training has changed since the Columbine shooting in 1999.

“Back then it was set up a perimeter and wait until the SWAT team showed up and then they would go in,” Foxhoven said. “Now if it happens, every officer on duty would respond and the first four who get there would go in and search for the shooter — our goal is to get to the shooter before there are any more victims so we can make the scene as safe as possible so that any victims can be treated.”

Foxhoven touted the security upgrades at the new school. He also noted panic buttons would be beneficial for law enforcement in the event a similar situation takes place in St. Marys.

“Any type of immediately notification, the better off we would be,” Foxhoven said. “I know there are several security devices at the school, which are designed to eliminate and deter someone, but if someone is committed to do this, they will find a way in. That’s what we have to prepare for and I think our school is now leaps and bounds above where they were at the old school in terms of safety.”