LIMA — School safety has been pushed to the forefront for many concerned parents and local officials.
Local school officials came together with Ohio legislators to talk school safety Tuesday afternoon at Apollo Career Center. With many Ohio senators and representatives in town for Gov. John Kasich’s State of the State address, they took the opportunity to meet with superintendents, law enforcement officials and emergency personnel to discuss the issue.
Ohio Sen. Frank LaRose, a Republican and chairman of the meeting, said the meeting was part of a series that focuses on security, school infrastructure, law enforcement response, training and all aspects pertaining to protection.
“We’re trying to gather input and listen more than anything else to what local officials have in mind on ways to improve school safety,” LaRose said. “We shared best practices and ideas that are being tried and some of the things that the school and law enforcement officials said they would like to have in place.”
One of those things Lima City Schools Jill Ackerman brought up was a school resources officer, a police officer who would be responsible for patrolling the school and keeping the kids safe.
“I brought up our relationship with the Lima Police Department and everything we’re currently doing in collaboration with them,” she said. “I also talked about our desire for funding for our school resources officer.”
LaRose said overall, he’s impressed with the relationship between law enforcement and local schools.
“One of the things that came through really clearly is actually what a good job your local schools and law enforcement are doing and really collaborating to work together to sit down and figure out the best plan for them,” he said.
Funding was another timely issue brought up with the recent release of Kasich’s budget.
“Funding is always an issue. We live in a world of scarce resources, but there may need to be a conversation in the context of the state budget,” LaRose said. “I’m open to it, and I’m open to the conversation about it.”
That may be something Elida schools Superintendent Don Diglia appreciates. He said he is glad the issue of school safety funding is on the table.
“This is an issue that keeps getting bigger and bigger that we have to deal with,” he said. “Depending on the size of the school, it can be pretty costly. It’s not costly in the fact that we shouldn’t be paying for, it's something we have to pay for because we have to make sure our kids are safe.”
Another big issue discussed was training on how to react in the event of a school shooting.
“I think the overwhelming message that I got out of the meeting was that the timing is important. We talked about the fact we couldn’t remember the last time somebody’s died in a building because of a fire because of how often we practice fire drills. Kids know exactly what to do,” Diglia said. “We need to have that kind of communication open with these new concerns that we have – the safety of our young people.”
Diglia said now most schools use ALICE training, which changed the way schools handled an active shooter situation.
“The importance of that is if there is an active shooter in the building, if you’re not around that person, you’re getting out of the building,” he said.
Overall, most said it was a great opportunity for legislators to get together with local officials.
“It was a good opportunity for the senators that held the meeting to hear from local officials about the needs of each individual school system,” Bath Township Fire Chief Joe Kitchen said. “I got the feeling the senators that were there were really going to listen and use the information they got from Allen County to take back to Columbus.”
LaRose said if anyone is interested in testifying in Columbus, officials are holding hearings at the Capitol. In order to foster a robust conversation, they’ve tried to use the hashtag #OHSafeSchools on Twitter.