Illustration by Jeff Basting
As a firefighter and emergency medical technician, Andy Klinger responds to calls on a daily basis and is regarded as a first responder.
In her more than two decades in the education field, Amy Klinger has dealt with students with medical emergencies, severe weather incidents, and even an intruder in her school. As a top building administrator, she often was the first person called to respond to such events.
“When a kid goes down in my cafeteria, I’m the first one there. I’m the one with that kid until the medics come,” Mrs. Klinger said. “But during this discussion with my family, I found that there was such a disconnect in the training that my son, as a firefighter and EMT, received, and what we had as educators.”
From that discussion, and lots of research, the northwest Ohio family’s business was born.
The Educators School Safety Network focuses on proactive emergency response training for educators and school administrators.
Mrs. Klinger, her sons Andy and Avan, and daughters Amanda and Ali, work together, traveling the country assessing the safety of schools and training staffs. The safety squad covers everything from medical emergency response and severe weather incidents to bullying and school violence. Staffs are trained on lock downs, evacuations, threat assessment management, violence prevention, and responding to other crises.
“We don’t just come and talk for four hours. We see what a school needs,” Amanda Klinger said. “There is no one-size-fits-all approach when it comes to safety. How you respond to an incident at a mall is totally different to how you would respond to a school incident. A teacher has 30 children in her care.”
To date, the Educators School Safety Network has trained staff and administrators at more than 100 schools across the country. In addition, the nonprofit makes presentations at conferences and conventions. In the wake of the school shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Conn., in December, the company has seen an increase in business.
“We’re talking a lot about shooter response because it’s a concern right now and a valid concern,” Amanda Klinger said. “Statistically speaking, you’re going to face an issue in your school and it’s not going to be a shooting. It’s going to be a medical issue or some other violence, like a fight, or even a suicide.”
Jim Witt, superintendent of Lake Schools, sought help from the Klinger family business in 2012, two years after tornadoes ripped through Lake High School, destroying almost half the building. School staff was informed on how to respond to emergency situations, including evacuations, violence prevention, and other crises.
“School safety issues have continued to come to the forefront more often now than in the past,” Mr. Witt said. “This is the way we choose to deal with ours. There are strategies in place and we do practice them. [The ESSN] enhanced things we already had in place.”
The Klinger family hails from Genoa. Amy has worked as a teacher, principal, and central office administrator. She now is a professor at Ashland University and an instructor for the Department of Homeland Security. Daughter Amanda, 29, practiced as a criminal defense attorney before joining the family business full-time in 2008. She serves as director of operations. Sons Andy, 25, and Avan, 18, a student at Ashland, both help with training. Daughter Ali, who is Andy’s twin sister, works with the team on school assessments.
During the assessments, Ali finds her way into a school through an unlocked door. She times how long she’s in the school and how far she can wander before a staff member approaches her.
“This is the school’s way of asking are they doing a good job, and often times the answer is no,” Amy Klinger said. “[Ali] has about a 98 percent success rate getting in the school and she’s inside 15 to 20 minutes before someone stops her.”
Ali Klinger often gains entry through access-control doors, which the safety team acknowledges when used properly are a good start for security, but can’t be the only measure in place.
“You have to have more tools in the tool box,” Mrs. Klinger said. “Your next level of deterrence is your teachers.”
States require that school districts have an emergency response plan in place, but often there are only a few people who know the plan, Mrs. Klinger said.
“Everybody needs to know how to respond and it has to be everybody’s problem to respond,” Mrs. Klinger said. “Parents are going to be forgiving if test scores go down or the football team doesn’t win, but if something happens to their child at school, they’re never going to forget that.”
Contact RoNeisha Mullen at: firstname.lastname@example.org or 419-724-6133.