Photo via Wikimedia Commons
Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine announced Aug. 21 the creation of a new division of the state's Department of Homeland Security charged with preventing school shootings and other violent acts.
The Ohio School Safety Center will work with local law enforcement personnel and school districts to proactively detect threats against schools before mass shootings happen, DeWine said, and will use technology to monitor social media and other sites for potential danger.
DeWine has signed an executive order creating the safety center. The division will be housed in Ohio's Department of Public Safety and staffed with members from that office. Among the tasks it will undertake:
• Review school safety plans and implement risk assessments for schools and offer training and technical assistance to school safety efforts
• Actively scan social media and other online sources for threats to specific schools
• Host an annual school safety summit during which mental health, education and law enforcement professionals can meet and share information
• Provide safety resources at saferschools.ohio.gov
• Promote a tipline, 844-SAFEROH, where callers can submit anonymous tips regarding school safety threats.
Beyond trying to mitigate threats to others, the division will also work to find and treat students contemplating self-harm, a leading cause of death among young people.
DeWine's executive order also creates the Ohio School Safety Working Group made up of public safety, education and mental health professionals that will generate a yearly school safety report for the state.
"Having one office where the staff solely focuses on keeping our students safe and our schools secure will allow analysts to nimbly assess threats, proactively address potential issues and expertly train and support school faculty in a more streamlined manner,” DeWine said during the announcement of the executive order.
Local educators say the center will be helpful and could complement efforts already underway.
“The safety of our students and staff is at the forefront of everything we do," Cincinnati Public Schools said in a statement. "The Governor’s Ohio School Safety Center will address issues that we’re also working to address here in Cincinnati. CPS is leading efforts to enhance positive school culture through positive behavior intervention supports, increasing the number of school social workers, and partnering with mental health agencies. CPS is one of the only districts in Ohio to have a mental health partner servicing every one of the schools. Our Safety Task Force is comprised of local law enforcement and safety officials, and advises the district on best practices to improve the safety and security of our schools."
The center is part of a larger, 17-point effort to address gun violence and mass shootings, DeWine says. Some of the other efforts already proposed by the governor, however, such as a potential "Red Flag" law that would allow courts to take guns from those deemed dangerous to the community, could face opposition from Republican lawmakers.
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