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Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine’s office trained area school personnel and law enforcement officers on Tuesday on how to recognize, plan for, and react to shooters in schools, training that’s normally geared toward police.
The course, held at the Educational Service Center of Lake Erie West, 2275 Collingwood Blvd., did not include firearms training.
Instead, it focused on how schools and law enforcement can prepare to respond in active shooter scenarios, and gave tips for school staff on how to react if there is a shooter on a school campus.
“Every one of you has a right to feel safe in your job,” said James Burke, a law enforcement training officer with Mr. DeWine's office. “Every one of your students has a right to feel safe in their school.”
In the wake of the killings of 20 students and six adults at a Connecticut elementary school by a gunman, Mr. DeWine joined with the Ohio Department of Education and a variety of school and law enforcement organizations to expand the training normally meant for law enforcement to teachers and school administrators.
Participants were shown how school shooters at Columbine and Virginia Tech planned their massacres well in advance, and gave warning signs that were ignored before the shootings. Mr. Burke emphasized being aware of those signs and not convincing yourself that there is nothing wrong.
The training also covered what to do if a shooter is in a building or even in a classroom, with Mr. Burke telling participants they need to be aware of their surroundings, and prepared to flee or even fight if necessary. Most mass public shootings last about seven minutes, he said, with a round of shots fired every 15 seconds, so strategies to keep a shooter away or to escape within that time frame are paramount.
Amy Scherer, executive director for pupil services at Bowling Green City Schools, was at the training with the district's superintendent, Ann McVey, and other district personnel, as were officers from the Bowling Green police department.
Ms. Scherer said the district has been working with the police and the Wood County Sheriff's Office to collaborate on response strategies.
Her biggest takeaway from the training was the value of communication, even when details might seem trivial at the time.
“If you see something,” she said, “say something.”
Heather Dinklage, a school psychologist at the Life Skills Center of Toledo, said in her job she's mostly focused on preventative strategies in dealing with high risk students. She hoped the training would teach her how to react during the worst case scenario. The training convinced her the school should develop a formalized crisis intervention team.
“I want to be able to best keep students and staff safe,” she said.
Contact Nolan Rosenkrans at: firstname.lastname@example.org or 419-724-6086, or on Twitter @NolanRosenkrans.