COLUMBUS, Ohio — Gov. Mike DeWine signed an executive order Wednesday to create a new office that will focus on school safety — trying to head off mass shootings, other forms of violence, deaths by suicide and self-harm.
The Ohio School Safety Center is set to open Thursday with seven permanent employees from the Ohio Department of Public Safety under which the new division will fall. More could be hired.
Parents and educators can find resources at the website: saferschools.ohio.gov. Also unveiled was a tip line that will take calls or texts: 844-SAFEROH or 844-723-3764.
The Republican governor said that this was part of his 17-point plan to reduce gun violence and increase mental health treatment in the wake of the Aug. 4 mass shooting in Dayton, where nine people were killed and others injured.
The office staff are expected to operate the website and tip line. They will expand use of software and analysis to scan social media for school threats, determine their seriousness and share the information with local schools and law enforcement. A spokesman for DeWine later said that they are looking for key words, since many mass shooters upload manifestos before they engage in violence.
DeWine said he’s not trying to usurp local efforts, but enhance them and make statewide resources available. For instance, the office will help with school safety plans if necessary.
DeWine said that the public’s help is essential for its success.
“That’s what we have to do to protect each other,” he said. “We have to have citizen involvement.”
A March incident in Morrow County recently came to light in which two first-graders in Highland Local Schools removed a gun from a case in a district office. One of the students is the grandson of the district’s transportation director, who underwent training to have the weapon as part of the district’s concealed carry policy. The story has gone viral.
On the topic of whether whether there should be a statewide law covering policies that allow guns in schools, DeWine said: “What my position is, going back to Ohio attorney general, is these are local decisions.”
DeWine said there are state recommendations for courses that people should take before carrying weapons in schools if they are not school resource officers. The recommendations are not in state law, he said.